As COVID cases surge, Punjab reimposes night curfew from Dec 1; Centre asks states to consider staggered office timings where positivity rate is high

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New Delhi, Nov 25 (PTI) Punjab on Wednesday reimposed night curfew from December one as the Centre allowed states to implement this measure and also asked them to consider staggered office timings where the weekly COVID-19 positivity rate is over 10 per cent to check the spurt in coronavirus cases in the country.

The Centre also underlined the need to track 80 per cent of the contacts of a coronavirus patient within 72 hours.

Allowing states and union territories(UT) to impose local restrictions like night curfew, the Centre, however, made it clear they will have to consult it before imposing any lockdown outside the containment zones.

While Punjab will be imposing night curfew across the state, states like Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have implemented this measure in the worst affected districts. Authorities in Uttarakhand also announced that the state capital Dehradun will be under lockdown on Sundays.

The night curfew in Punjab will remain in force in all cities and towns from 10 pm to 5 am, said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh after a COVID-19 review meeting, according to a state government statement.

The fresh restrictions were announced amid fears of a second wave of the infection in Punjab in the wake of the grim situation in the adjacent Delhi-National Capital Region(NCR).

In neighbouring Uttarakhand, Dehradun District Magistrate Ashish Shrivastava issued an order seeking strict compliance of the lockdown on Sundays for carrying out sanitisation drives in busy market areas.

Unveiling the guidelines for 'Surveillance, Containment and Caution' for the month of December, the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA) said the main focus is to consolidate the substantial gains which are visible in the steady decline in the number of active coronavirus cases in the country.

The guidelines said that keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in a few states and union territories, ongoing festival season and onset of winter, it is emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic there is a need to maintain caution and strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy.

'States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19 such as night curfew.

'However, state and UT governments shall not impose any local lockdown (state/ district/ sub-division/City level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the central government,' the guidelines said.

Where the weekly case positivity rate is more than 10 per cent, states and UTs concerned shall consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures to reduce the number of employees attending office at the same time, thereby ensuring social distancing, it said.

The guidelines were unveiled as India's COVID-19 caseload went past 92 lakh with 44,376 new cases reported in a day, while the number of recoveries surged to 86.42 lakh.

The number of total coronavirus cases rose to 92,22,216, while the death toll due to the disease climbed to 1,34,699 with 481 new fatalities, according to the union health ministry's data updated at 8 am.

The active caseload shot up to 4,44,746, an increase of 6,079 cases from Tuesday, even though it remained below five lakh for the 15th consecutive day, accounting for 4.82 per cent of the total cases, the data stated.

The number of people who have recovered from the disease surged to 86,42,771, pushing the national recovery rate to 93.72 per cent, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stood at 1.46 per cent.

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in Delhi, some district authorities have been setting up micro-containment zones where two or more infections have been reported for better management of the pandemic, officials said.

Normally, an area is marked containment zone where three or more COVID-19 cases are detected. But it is a dynamic exercise, conducted by district authorities on a need-based manner, they said.

With the total number of tests conducted for the detection of COVID-19 nearing 13.5 crore in the country, the union health ministry said comprehensive and widespread testing on a sustained basis has resulted in bringing down the positivity rate.

The progressive decline in the national cumulative COVID-19 positivity rate has demonstrated that the rate of spread of the infection is being effectively contained in the country, the ministry underlined.

The cumulative positivity rate has been steadily falling and has touched 6.84 per cent as on date while the daily positivity rate stands at 3.83 per cent, it said.

The country has demonstrated a consistent strengthening of its COVID-19 testing infrastructure since January, resulting in an exponential increase in the testing numbers, the ministry said.

With 11,59,032 tests conducted for the detection of the coronavirus infection in a span of 24 hours, the total number of such tests is nearing 13.5 crore (13,48,41,307), it added.

Elaborating on its guidelines, the MHA said that local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed.

The state and UT governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard, it said.

“States and UTs are mandated to strictly enforce containment measures, SOPs on various activities and COVID-appropriate behaviour and exercise caution and regulate crowds,” the MHA statement said.

According to the guidelines, all activities have been permitted outside containment zones except for some which have been allowed with certain restrictions.

These activities are international air travel of passengers, as permitted by the MHA, cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 per cent capacity, swimming pools, only for training of sports persons and exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.

Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural and religious gatherings in closed spaces are allowed with up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the hall capacity with a ceiling of 200 persons. In open spaces, people wiil be allowed as per the size of the ground.

However, based on their assessment of the situation, state and UT governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less in closed spaces. PTI ACB SKL CHS VSD ALM VIT PLB GSN GSN GSN