There has been a steep decline in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent weeks

Two years after their implementation following the outbreak of the pandemic, the Union Home Ministry has decided to end its all Covid-19 containment measures from March 31.

The decision follows a continuous decline in the number of Covid-19 cases all over the country.

Wearing of face mask and maintaining social distancing norms will, however, continue as earlier.

The decision was communicated to all states and Union Territories by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla on Tuesday.

Following the outbreak of the pandemic, the Central Government had on March 24, 2020 issued orders and guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, (DM Act) 2005 for the containment of Covid-19 in the country. These were later modified on various occasions.

In the communication, Bhalla said that over the last 24 months, significant capacities have been developed for various aspects of management of the pandemic, such as diagnostics, surveillance, contact tracing, treatment, vaccination, hospital infrastructure.

People now had a higher level of awareness about Covid appropriate behaviour, the Union Home Secretary added.

The states and Union Territories have also developed their own capacities and systems and implemented their detailed specific plans for managing the pandemic, Bhalla said.

His communication noted that over the last seven weeks or so, there has been a steep decline in the number of cases.

The total caseload in the country stands at 23,913 only (on March 22) and the daily positivity rate has declined to 0.28 per cent, he said. It is also worth mentioning that with the combined efforts, a total of 181.56 crore vaccine doses have been administered, he pointed out.

“After taking into consideration the overall improvement in the situation and preparedness of the Government to deal with the pandemic, National Disaster Management Authority has taken a decision that there may not be any further need to invoke the provisions of the DM Act for COVID containment measures,” the communication said.

Accordingly, Bhalla said, after the expiry of the existing order on March 31, no further order will be issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare advisories on COVID containment measures, including on the use of face mask and hand hygiene, will continue to guide the overall national response to the pandemic, he said.

The Home Secretary also said that in view of the nature of the disease, people still need to remain watchful of the situation.

He said whenever any surge in the number of cases is observed, states and UTs may consider taking prompt and proactive action at local level, as advised by the Ministry of Health from time to time.

"I would, therefore, advise all the States and UTs to consider appropriately discontinuing issue of orders and guidelines under the DM Act, 2005 for COVID containment measures," Bhalla said.

The states and UTs may continue to follow the Standard Operating Measures and advisories that have been or are being issued by the Ministry of Health from time to time for containment measures, vaccination and other related aspects, he said.