NEW DELHI: Ahead of the upcoming festive season, the Centre has asked states and Union Territories to ensure that mass gatherings are not allowed in containment zones and in districts reporting over five percent Covid case positivity rate.
In a letter to chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said these gatherings should also be monitored and necessary enforcement and penal actions should be taken in case of violations in physical distancing and mask usage norms.
"As a matter of abundant caution, no mass gatherings should be allowed. In areas identified as containment zones and in districts reporting more than 5 per cent case positivity.
"Gatherings with advance permissions and limited people (as per local context) may be allowed only in districts reporting a positivity rate of 5 per cent or below," he said.
Restrictions and relaxations should be imposed and monitored based on weekly case positivity or a high bed occupancy (Oxygen and ICU beds), and restrictions if any should be imposed without any delay and for a minimum period of 14 days besides continued focus on the five-fold strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and adherence to Covid-Appropriate Behaviour, he told states.
Noting that it is a critical period as there may be a tendency to ignore Covid-safe behaviour during festivals, resulting in large gatherings, events and fairs, Bhushan said it is critical to enforce adherence to guidelines to allow festivities in a cautious, safe and Covid appropriate manner.
"Any laxity in implementation of Covid appropriate behaviour could lead to serious consequences and can result in a surge in cases," he said.
To safely navigate through the festive season without any adverse consequences in the form of infection outbreak, the Centre said it is important that states continue to diligently follow the five pillars of COVID-19 Management -- "Test-Track-Treat-vaccinate and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour".
The Centre said there should be strict adherence to limits on gatherings linked with availability of space to ensure effective physical distancing and use of volunteers to aid thermal screenings, to enforce use of masks and physical distancing.
"Closed circuit cameras may also be utilized to monitor compliance to physical distancing and use of masks," the Centre told states in the letter issued on Tuesday.
As an abundant caution, the Centre said states can continue with night curfews, weekend curfews and other restrictions to highlight that COVID-19 is still not over and to influence adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour.
"States shall closely monitor the case trajectories across all districts on a daily basis to identify any early warning signals and shall ensure imposition of restrictions and adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour as a non-pharmaceutical intervention to control the spread of infection," the Centre said.
The Centre further said it is important that these guidelines are reiterated and ensured by the state governments among all concerned for effective follow up in a mission-mode approach to maintain the gains made so far in COVID-19 management and avoid any resurgence of cases.