New Delhi: As the Union Home Ministry decides to end all coronavirus containment measures from March 31 following a dip in infections, the Centre on Wednesday clarified that the use of face mask and hand hygiene will continue to guide the national response to the pandemic.
The Union Health Ministry said reports suggesting relaxation in wearing face mask and maintaining hand hygiene were “untrue”.
“Some media reports are suggesting relaxation in mask wearing and hand hygiene Covid protocols. These are untrue. Use of face mask and hand hygiene will continue to guide Covid management measures,” it tweeted.
In a communication to the chief secretaries of all states, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said 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.
The central government had on March 24, 2020, issued for the first time orders and guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, (DM Act) 2005 for the containment of COVID-19 in the country and these have been modified on various occasions.
In the communication, Bhalla said 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.
Also, the general public now has much higher level of awareness on Covid appropriate behavior, he said.
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, adding over the last seven weeks or so there has been a steep decline in the number of cases.
The total Covid case count 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, Bhalla said.
“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,” said the communication.
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, however, said 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.