Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla in his letter has reminded the states and UTs that any increase in the R-factor above 1.0 is an indicator of rapid spread of Covid-19 and therefore, the authorities concerned should be made responsible for ensuring Covid-appropriate behaviour in all crowded places.
A day after PM Narendra Modi expressed concern over the massive crowds at hill stations and marketplaces, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday wrote to all states and Union Territories asking them to take steps to control crowding and shed off complacency as the R-rate of Covid infections is rising in many states. It has also asked them to make officers personally responsible for any laxity.
“With the decline in the number of active cases, States and UTs have started re-opening the activities in a gradual manner …However, blatant violations of COVID norms have been observed in several parts.of the country, especially in public transport and at hill stations. Massive crowds are also thronging the market places, violating norms of social distancing. Consequently, increase in ‘R’ factor (Reproduction number) in some of the States, is a matter of concern,” Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote in his letter sent to chief secretaries of all states on Wednesday.
Taking serious note of the rampant violation of Covid norms reported from hill stations and markets over the last week, Modi had on Tuesday warned that the key to preventing another surge is not predicting when it will come but adhering strictly to safety protocols. The “third wave will not come on its own”, the PM had said, even as he said people should follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
Modi’s remarks came during his interaction with the chief ministers of the Northeastern states.
Bhalla in his letter has reminded the states and UTs that any increase in the R-factor above 1.0 is an indicator of rapid spread of Covid-19 and therefore, the authorities concerned should be made responsible for ensuring Covid-Appropriate behaviour in all crowded places.
The MHA has said strict adherence to Covid norms must be ensured at shops, malls, markets, market complexes, weekly markets, restaurants and bars, mandis, bus stations, railway platforms and stations, public parks and gardens, gymnasiums, banquet/marriage halls, stadia/sports complexes as well as at all areas identified as hotspots for transmission of the Covid virus.
“It needs to be ensured that if the norms of COVID Appropriate Behaviour are not maintained at any establishment/premises/markets etc., such places shall be liable for the re-imposition of restrictions, for containing the spread of COVID-19 and the defaulter(s) shall also be liable for action under the relevant laws,” Bhalla’s letter stated.
The letter has asked states to issue appropriate orders to district and local authorities for regulation of crowds. “The officers concerned should be made personally responsible for any laxity in strict enforcement of Covid appropriate behaviour,” it added, emphasizing that all Covid-related orders issued by the state governments must be adequately publicised.
“It is emphasized that the second wave of Covid is not over yet… we must guard against complacency and laxity which creeps in as positivity declines,” the letter further said, advising states to use the period of low positivity to take steps to prevent another surge.
The letter has said that though the reach of vaccination is increasing, states must continue to act on the principle of “Dawai Bhi, Kadai Bhi” (vaccination along with restrictions).
“Testing needs to be continued with the same vigor, as adequate testing is extremely essential in terms of checking the virus and early identification of cases,” the letter added.
Earlier MHA had written to all states on June 19 asking them to relax restrictions in a calibrated manner after proper assessment of the Covid situation.
Following reports of massive crowds at tourist destinations in the first week of July, Bhalla along with Health Secretary Ajay Bhushan had held a meeting with top officials of eight states which have tourist destinations and expressed concern over lack of crowd regulation and enforcement of Covid norms.
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