The Centre on Monday maintained the COVID-19 restrictions on various activities, noting that while there has been a continuous decline in active cases in India, there is a need for surveillance, containment and caution due to a surge globally and the emergence of a new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom.
In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has issued fresh guidelines for surveillance with regard to COVID-19 that will remain in force till January 31, as it asked the states and union territories to keep a strict vigil to prevent any rise in cases during the New Year celebrations and the winter season.
It also asked the states and UTs to actively support central authorities in the preparations for an expected vaccination drive.
'While there has been a continuous decline in the active and new COVID-19 cases, there is a need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in cases globally, and the emergence of a new variant of the virus in the UK.
'Accordingly, containment zones continue to be demarcated carefully; prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones; COVID-appropriate behaviour promoted and strictly enforced, and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities followed scrupulously,' the MHA said.
The ministry said a focussed approach on surveillance and containment and a strict observance of the guidelines and SOPs issued by it and the health ministry, as envisaged in the guidelines issued last month, need to be enforced by the states and union territories.
Last month, the MHA had said the states and UTs can impose local restrictions like night curfew to check the spread of COVID-19 but made it clear that they will have to consult the Centre before imposing a lockdown outside the containment zones.
'Strict vigil is also needed to be maintained to prevent any fresh surge in cases in wake of upcoming New Year celebrations and ongoing winter season which are favourable for the spread of the virus.
'In this regard, appropriate measures may be taken by the state and UT governments,' it said on Monday.
The guidelines issued last month had said all activities were allowed outside the containment zones except for the following, which were permitted with certain restrictions: international air travel of passengers as permitted by the MHA, cinema halls and theatres with up to 50 percent capacity, swimming pools, only for the training of sportspersons, exhibition halls, only for business-to-business (B2B) purposes.
Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings with a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity and with a ceiling of 200 people in closed spaces were allowed by keeping the size of the ground and space in view, in open spaces.
However, based on their assessment of the situation, the state governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 people or less in closed spaces, it had said.
There shall be no restriction on the inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods, including those for cross-land border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate permission, approval, e-permit will be required for such movements.
Noting that the Centre has started preparations for administration and roll-out of vaccine for COVID- 19, the MHA said on Monday that the National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) has recommended prioritization of this vaccine during the initial phases to health care workers, frontline workers, persons aged 50 years and above and those below 50 years of age with comorbidities.
'States/UTs may instruct the concerned authorities for their active support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in identification, preparation of database, vaccine delivery, storage, security, shipment and vaccination of beneficiaries,' it said.
According to the existing guidelines, the local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed.
The states and UTs will ensure a careful demarcation of containment zones by the district authorities at the micro level, taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by the health ministry in this regard.
Within the demarcated containment zones, containment measures as prescribed by the health ministry shall be scrupulously followed.
Only essential activities shall be allowed, there shall be a strict perimeter control to ensure no movement of people into or out of these zones except for medical emergencies and maintaining the supply of essential goods and services, and there shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by the surveillance teams formed for the purpose.
Besides, testing shall be carried out as per the prescribed protocol, the listing of contacts shall be carried out in respect of everyone found COVID positive, along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow-up of contacts for 14 days.
Surveillance for Influenza-like infections (ILI), Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.
The guidelines said the state and UT governments shall 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.
In order to enforce the core requirement of wearing of face masks, states and UTs may consider administrative actions, including the imposition of appropriate fines, on violators in public and workspaces.
India's COVID-19 caseload rose to 1,02,07,871 with 20,021 infections being reported in a day, while recoveries have surged to 97.82 lakh, according to Union health ministry data updated on Monday.
The death toll increased to 1,47,901 with 279 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 97,82,669, pushing the national recovery rate to 95.83 percent, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.45 percent.
The COVID-19 active caseload remained below three lakh for the seventh consecutive day.
There are 2,77,301 active coronavirus infections in the country, which comprise 2.72 per cent of the total caseload, the data stated.
The country's COVID-19 tally had crossed the 20-lakh mark on August 7, 30 lakh on August 23, 40 lakh on September 5 and 50 lakh on September 16.
It went past 60 lakh on September 28, 70 lakh on October 11, 80 lakh on October 29, 90 lakh on November 20 and crossed the one-crore mark on December 19.
The 1,47,901 deaths reported so far in the country include 49,255 from Maharashtra followed by 12,069 from Tamil Nadu, 12,062 from Karnataka, 10,453 from Delhi, 9,598 from West Bengal, 8,306 from Uttar Pradesh, 7,094 from Andhra Pradesh and 5,299 from Punjab.
The health ministry said that more than 70 percent of the deaths occurred due to comorbidities.