The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday permitted states and Union territories to impose local restrictions such as night curfews but directed them to consult the Centre before enforcing a lockdown outside containment zones.

In its fresh guidelines for “surveillance, containment and caution” in view of the coronavirus pandemic, the government urged states and Union territories to strictly enforce the health ministry’s guidelines for containment zones as well encourage “Covid-appropriate” behaviour. The guidelines will come into effect from December 1 and last till December 31.

The home affairs ministry said that the main focus of the guidelines was to “consolidate the substantial gains” achieved against the spread of Covid-19, which can be seen in the steady decline in the number of active cases in the country.

“Further, keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in few States/ UTs, ongoing festival season and onset of winter, it is emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare,” the order said.

For containment zones, the ministry said that there should strict perimeter control to ensure there is no movement of people in and out of the areas, excluding for essential services and medical reasons. It said that intensive house-to-house surveillance will be conducted by teams formed for the purpose and that quick isolation of Covid-19 patients should be ensured.

“Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed Containment measures are strictly followed and State/ UT Governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard,” the ministry said.

Emphasising on “Covid-appropriate” behaviour, the government said that states and Union territories can fine people for not wearing masks. “For observance of social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transport, [the] Ministry of Health and Family Welfare [MoHFW] will issue a SOP [standard operating procedure], which shall be strictly enforced by States and UTs,” it said.

The government also allowed states and Union territories to reduce the limit on the number of people permitted at gatherings from 200 to 100 after assessing the coronavirus situation.

The states and Union territories would also enforce physical distancing norms for offices, the order said, adding that they should consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures in cities where the positivity rate is above 10%.

Several states in India are witnessing a worrying surge in cases, prompting the governments to reimpose restrictions. Earlier in the day, the Punjab government imposed a night curfew in the state, starting December 1. The fine for not wearing masks and flouting physical distancing norms has also been doubled from Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.

The Maharashtra government has made it mandatory for travelers from Delhi, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Goa to carry a report showing that they are not infected with the coronavirus.

The Delhi government began reinstating coronavirus-related restrictions last week, starting with revising the limit on wedding guests from 200 to 50. The Arvind Kejriwal-led government also increased the fine for not wearing masks in the Capital to Rs 2,000 from Rs 500 to tackle the pandemic.

Gujarat also had to reimpose a night curfew in Ahmedabad to control the infection. Similar curbs were also enforced in Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara.

India’s coronavirus count rose to 92,22,216 on Wednesday morning as it reported 44,376 new cases in 24 hours. The country’s toll rose by 481 to 1,34,699. India’s active cases stood at 4,44,746, while the recoveries reached 86,42,771.