The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday directed the states and Union Territories to facilitate unhindered movement of all health workers and sanitation personnel amid the nationwide lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic. The ministry also asked authorities to ensure that private clinics and nursing homes remain open.

In a letter to the chief secretaries of the states, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that restrictions on the movement of healthcare workers at some places had been flagged during a video conference, chaired by Cabinet Secretary Rajeev Gauba on Sunday.

“The services of medical and para-medical staff are urgently required to meet the challenge of Covid-19 pandemic,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the existing staff, apart from this duty, also has to render normal responsibilities, such as conducting immunisation programmes, handling the onset of vector and other seasonal diseases, and meeting other non-Covid emergencies.”

Bhalla said restrictions on the movement of health workers could severely affect emergency medical services. “As such, ensuring unhindered movement of all such medical professionals is essential for meeting public health requirements and saving precious human lives,” he added.

The home ministry official noted reports that private clinics and nursing homes were not being allowed to open at several places. “Functioning of these medical facilities, which supplement the regular medical infrastructure, and relieve the burden on hospitals, is also crucial,” he said. “I would urge all States and UTs [Union Territories] to ensure that such clinics and nursing homes continue to function without any hindrances,” Bhalla said.

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Home ministry on movement of migrant workers

In a separate order, the home ministry directed the states to ensure that migrant workers board the ‘Shramik’ special trains and do not walk home. “Governments should ensure that migrant workers do not resort to walking on roads and rail tracks,” the home ministry said. “In case they are found in such condition, they should appropriately be counselled, taken to nearby shelters and provide with food, water etc...till they are facilitated to board the Shramik special trains or buses to their native places. The home ministry also asked the states to allow special trains to operate without hindrances.

On Saturday, six migrant labourers died and 14 were injured in Madhya Pradesh after the truck they were travelling in overturned in a village, around 200 km away from Bhopal. The incident came a day after at least 16 workers died as a cargo train ran over them in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district. The exhausted workers, who were walking home, had fallen asleep on the tracks.

The number of coronavirus cases in India rose to 67,152 on Monday morning and the toll climbed to 2,206.