The Ministry of Home Affairs on Friday directed states and Union Territories to prevent social gatherings and religious processions during the upcoming festivals, and ensure lockdown measures were strictly followed.

In a letter to the chief secretaries of states, the home ministry wrote: “In view of the ensuing festivals in April 2020, you are requested to ensure strict compliance of lockdown measures and not allow any social/religious gathering or procession.” The Union Home Ministry also asked the states and Union Territories to ensure appropriate vigilance on social media to prevent circulation of any objectionable content.

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Two clauses of the consolidated guidelines stated that all religious congregation will be barred without any exceptions. It also added that all social, cultural, religious events shall be prohibited. The order was directed to be communicated to district authorities and field agencies about the specific restrictions.

The home ministry cautioned that any violation of the lockdown measures will attract action under relevant penal provisions of the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and Indian Penal Code.

The total number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 6,761 on Friday evening, and 206 patients have died so far. The Union health ministry said that the pandemic has not reached the stage of community transmission in India. During this stage, a large number of people get infected and it would be difficult to identify the source of infection.

State governments have tightened restrictions – sealing off infection hotspots and making protective masks compulsory – to contain Covid-19. On Friday, Punjab became the second state after Odisha to extend lockdown till May 1.

Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana have backed the extension of the nationwide lockdown to slow down the spread of coronavirus. On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a second meeting with the chief ministers to take a final call on extending the lockdown to contain the coronavirus outbreak. In the first meeting, Modi had asked all chief ministers to provide a “common exit strategy” on lifting the lockdown in a staggered manner.