Amidst initial signs of surge in cases of COVID-19 as well as increased detection of Omicron variant in different parts of the country, the Centre on Monday issued a fresh advisory to all States and UTs to deal with the pandemic situation. In the advisory, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said States and Union Territories may consider imposing need based, local curbs and restrictions, to control the crowd during the festive season.
Asking States and UTs not to let the guard down, he emphasised that there should be continued focus on the five-fold strategy — Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour to avoid the possibility of surge in COVID-19 cases, especially keeping in view the new Variant of Concern (VOC). He asked the States and UTs to refer to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) order issued for ensuring implementation of the measures as conveyed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) on December 21.
“The country has witnessed an overall decline in active cases. However, the new variant, Omicron is reported to be at least three times more transmissible than the Delta VOC, and is posing a new challenge for the Covid containment measures,” the communication said.
In the countries with Omicron-driven surge, the home secretary said, the growth trajectory of cases has been very steep and in our country, 578 Omicron cases have already been reported in 19 States and UTs so far. He said globally, Omicron cases have already been reported in 116 countries. Further, surge in cases is also being reported across various countries, especially in the US, the UK, Europe (France, Italy, Spain), Russia, South Africa, Vietnam, Australia, etc.
In the MoHFW advisory of December 21, Bhalla said a normative framework has been provided and with distinct presence of the Delta variant and detection of Omicron cases in many States, there is need for greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making, and strict and prompt containment actions at the local and district levels, based on the assessment of the situation.
The home secretary said on December 23, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reviewed the status of COVID-19, Omicron VOC and preparedness of health systems across the country. After review, the prime minister has directed that everyone should maintain a high level of vigil and alertness.
The state governments should ensure that the health systems in the States are strengthened to meet any challenge posed by the new variant, Bhalla said. State governments and UT administrations should ensure that oxygen supply equipment are installed and are fully functional and the buffer stock of essential drugs maintained, he said.
“I would like to reiterate that all the States and UTs must observe all precautions, and not let the guard down. Local and district administration, based on the normative framework and assessment of the situation, should promptly take appropriate containment measures. States may consider imposing need based, local curbs and restrictions, to control the crowd during the festive season,” he said.
Bhalla said the State enforcement machinery should strictly enforce the norms of Covid appropriate behaviour.
With a view to discourage any misinformation in respect of the new VOC, which creates anxiety among the public, all States and UTs should proactively and regularly hold media briefings at the highest level to disseminate the right information to them,” he said.
The home secretary said States and UTs should also educate them about various preventive measures undertaken by them and also advise them to strictly follow Covid appropriate behaviour.
“I would, therefore, urge you to issue necessary directions to the districts and all other local authorities concerned, to take necessary measures for prompt and effective management of COVID-19, strict compliance with various advisories issued by the MoHFW on the new VOC and strict enforcement of Covid appropriate behaviour,” he said.