The new guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs also suggest sharper focus on surveillance and COVID-appropriate behaviour

The centre has asked all states and Union Territories to strictly demarcate containment zones and enforce COVID-appropriate behaviour like wearing masks in a fresh set of guidelines issued today. The guidelines will be effective from December 1 to December 31.

According to the new guidelines issued for Surveillance, Containment and Caution by the Ministry of Home Affairs, the states and UTs have been advised to take all containment measures inside the containment zones. The measures include permission to only essential services inside the zones.

States and UTs can also impose local restrictions like lockdowns, based on their assessment of the situation. But such a local lockdown cannot be imposed outside the containment zones without the permission of the centre.

They have also been urged to ensure COVID-appropriate behaviour, including imposing fines on people not wearing masks.

This is in line with the discussions held yesterday between Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Chief Ministers of eight states reporting the highest number of cases including Delhi and Maharashtra.

Releasing the guidelines, the MHA in a statement said, “The main focus of the Guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of COVID-19 which is visible in the steady decline in the number of active cases in the country.”

The guidelines have been issued to ensure full caution and strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines since the nation has seen a surge in the cases post festive season and onset of winters, it said.

The central government has asked authorities to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services.

States and UTs have been asked to initiate an intensive house-to-house surveillance by surveillance teams formed for the purpose. Testing shall be carried out as per prescribed protocol, it said.

To track and trace the cases, the centre has advised states to trace around 80 per cent of contacts in 72 hours. “Listing of contacts shall be carried out in respect of all persons found positive, along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up of contacts for 14 days,” it said.

It should be followed by quick isolation and clinical interventions, as prescribed. The government said that the surveillance for ILI/SARI cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.

The MHA also ordered the local district, police and municipal authorities to ensure that the prescribed Containment measures are strictly followed. The central government also made the state and UT governments accountable for the same.

At the same time, the ministry also advised states to take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and to ensure strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing by any means including imposition of appropriate fines.