The Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday asked states to impose localised restrictions and implement strict containment measures to flatten the surging coronavirus curve, reported The Hindu. The restrictions will be enforced for 14 days.

“….States and UTs [Union Territories], based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions at district/sub district and city/ward level, with a view to contain the spread of Covid-19,” read the letter from Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla. “In the recent past, a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases has been observed along with high positivity rate. Considering this unprecedented surge, there is an urgent need for states/UTs to consider strict Covid management and control measures, in the surge areas to bring the situation under control.”

The Centre said the restrictions should be enforced when the positivity rate is 10% or more for a week and over 60% hospital beds are occupied, according to NDTV. States have been given a broad framework for an “objective, transparent, and epidemiologically sound decision-making” on imposing a lockdown. States should make careful analysis of the local situation, areas to be covered, and probability of transmission before deciding on the restrictions.

“The spread of the infection has to be controlled through restricting the intermingling amongst people, the only known host for the Covid-19 virus,” said the ministry. “Social/political/sports/entertainment/academic/ cultural/religious/festival related and other gathering and congregations shall be prohibited. Marriages (attended by up to 50 persons) and funerals/last rites (attended by up to 20 persons) may be allowed.”

Below is a list of steps to be taken when a containment zone is identified:

  • Night curfew except for essential activities. The local administration will decide the duration of curfew.
  • Banning of social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious, festival-related and other gatherings.
  • Weddings are to be limited to up to 50 and 20 for funerals.
  • Shopping complexes, movie theatres, restaurants and bars, sports complexes, gym, spas, swimming pool and religious places will be closed. 
  • Only essential services should continue in both the public and private sectors.
  • Public transport like railways, metros, buses and cabs can operate at 50% capacity.
  • No restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement including transportation of essential goods.
  • Offices can function with up to 50% of their staff.
  • Industrial and scientific establishments can be allowed subject to physical distancing rules. They will be tested through Rapid Antigen Tests from time to time.    

Order on liquid oxygen

The home ministry on Monday also issued a clarification to its April 25 order on use of liquid oxygen for non-medical purposes. In its clarification, the Centre excluded industries manufacturing ampules and vials, the pharmaceutical sector and the defence forces from its ambit.

On Sunday, the Centre had directed state governments to ensure that use of liquid oxygen was not allowed for any non-medical purpose as supplies were needed for Covid-19 patients amid a severe shortage in India. The Centre modified its previous order that exempted nine categories of industries from diverting liquid oxygen for medical use. Monday’s order now reverses the April 18 letter exempting only three specified categories.

Over the last few days, the government has ramped up its efforts to get medical oxygen to hospitals using special “Oxygen Express” trains, Air Force planes and trucks to transport tankers as demand has outstripped supply across the country.

However, as reported based on government data available in the public domain, even if India uses its entire daily oxygen production for medical use, it still has a shortfall. The country is dipping into its reserves which could run out in a few weeks.

On Saturday, the Delhi High Court had warned that it would “hang” anyone who tried to obstruct the delivery of emergency oxygen supplies.

At least 20 coronavirus patients in Delhi died on Saturday after Jaipur Golden Hospital ran out of oxygen. A day earlier, 25 “sickest” coronavirus patients died overnight at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi amid a last-minute scramble for oxygen. The situation is worsening by the day with hospitals taking to social media to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and threatening to stop admissions of new patients.

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