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MHA allows local restrictions like night curfew; prior consultation with Centre must for any lockdown

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New Delhi: Amid a spurt in coronavirus cases in some regions, the Centre on Wednesday said states and union territories can impose local restrictions like night curfew to check the spread of COVID-19 but made it clear that they will have to consult it before imposing any lockdown outside the containment zones.
While issuing guidelines for “Surveillance, Containment and Caution” for December, the MHA also said that the listing of contacts shall be carried out in respect of all persons found positive, along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up for 14 days and 80 percent of contacts should be traced within 72 hours.

Reopen medical colleges from or before Dec 1

New Delhi: The Union Health Ministry Wednesday asked state governments to initiate steps for reopening of medical colleges from December 1 or before it, but with strict adherence to all COVID-19 related guidelines.
Educational institutions in the country have been closed since March in view of the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the chief secretaries and the administrators of all states and Union Territories, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan also suggested making non-COVID beds available in sufficient numbers in affiliated medical college-hospitals to facilitate undergraduate training.
The Health Ministry has obtained concurrence from the Ministry of Home Affairs for re-opening of medical colleges, the letter mentioned.
Accordingly, the states and UTs may take necessary steps to open the medical colleges on or before December 1, 2020, the health secretary said in his letter dated November 25.
Needless to say, all SOPs/guidelines with respect to social distancing and prevention of spread of epidemic issued by Central/states and UT governments will be followed scrupulously by all the colleges, he said.
The Centre’s directive comes in the wake of the National Medical Commission recommending reopening of medical colleges from December 1 or before it for the MBBS students already pursuing their courses.
The NMC, which has received representations from students and medical colleges, noted that the current batch of interns (2020) have not completed their required clinical training and unless they do it, they would not be eligible for appearing for the PG-NEET exam.
It also noted that the PG-NEET exam for the academic year 2021-22 has been delayed as the eligible candidates will be completing their training late.
Their training is required to be completed at the earliest so that the PG -NEET exam for the academic year 2021-22 can be held accordingly, it said.
“Delay in resuming the training would have a cascading effect on training of next PG and super-speciality courses in the coming years,” the NMC noted.
“The delayed new academic session for 2020-21 should commence from February 1, 2021. The new PG session for the academic year 2020-21 should begin from at least July 1, 2021 and therefore the PG-NEET exam for AY 2020-21 would need to be scheduled around March-April 2021,” the NMC said in a communique to the Health Ministry on November 12. With opening of medical colleges and to facilitate UG training, all medical colleges affiliated hospitals would need to have sufficient number of beds for non-COVID patients and hence facilities for both outpatient and inpatient management for non-COVID patients must be re-started, if not already done, the NMC stated. Further, it noted that the students today (and would-be doctors tomorrow) should also be familiar with the inherent threats and opportunities in healthcare systems which they would eventually handle themselves. It should not become a missed opportunity for medical students to learn the skills of epidemic management as public health professional, the NMC said.

Quick isolation of COVID-19 patients shall be ensured in treatment facilities and home, subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines, and clinical interventions, as prescribed, shall be administered, the guidelines said.
The ministry said that 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.
To enforce the core requirement of wearing of face masks, states and UTs may consider administrative actions, including the imposition of appropriate fines on persons not wearing face masks in public and workspaces it said.
The MHA said the main focus of the directive is to consolidate the substantial gains which are visible in the steady decline in the number of active cases in the country.
The guidelines said that keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in a few states and UTs, ongoing festival season and onset of winter, it is emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic there is a need to maintain caution and strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy.
The containment strategy should be focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines and SOPs issued by the MHA and the Ministry of Health, they said.
“States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19 such as night curfew.
“However, state and UT governments shall not impose any local lockdown (state/ district/ sub-division/City level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the central government,” the guidelines said.
The guidelines will be effective from December 1 to December 31.
The ministry said that local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed.
State and UT governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard, the ministry said.
States and UTs are mandated to strictly enforce containment measures, SOPs on various activities and COVID-appropriate behavior and exercise caution and regulate crowds, a home ministry statement said.
According to the guidelines, all activities have been permitted outside containment zones except for some which have been allowed with certain restrictions.
These activities are international air travel of passengers, as permitted by MHA, cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 percent capacity, swimming pools, only for the training of sportspersons and exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.
Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural and religious gatherings in closed spaces are allowed with up to a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity with a ceiling of 200 persons. In open spaces, people will be allowed as per the size of the ground.
However, based on their assessment of the situation, state and UT governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less in closed spaces.
The guidelines were enclosed with a list of 19 SOPs that have been issued from time to time to regulate the activities that have been permitted.
These SOPs shall be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned, who shall be responsible for their strict observance, the ministry said.
There shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons 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.
According to the guidelines, states and UTs will ensure 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.
The list of containment zones will be notified on the websites by the respective district collectors and by the states and UTs and this list will also be shared with the Union Health Ministry.
Within the demarcated containment zone, containment measures, as prescribed by the health ministry shall be scrupulously followed.
Only essential activities shall be allowed in the containment zones and there shall be strict perimeter control to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining the supply of essential goods and services, the guidelines said.
There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by teams formed for the purpose.

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