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Covid-19 containment measures to end on March 31, says Centre; face masks, social distancing to continue – The Indian Express

Days after monitoring the continuous dip in coronavirus cases in the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has decided to end all Covid-19 containment measures from March 31 – two years after imposing the implementation following the outbreak of the pandemic. But the MHA has asked all states and union territories to wear masks and follow social distancing norms as earlier.
The Central government had on March 24, 2020 issued for the first time orders and guidelines under the Disaster Management Act, (DM Act) 2005 for the containment of Covid-19 in the country and these have been modified on various occasions.
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“The country has witnessed an overall decline in active cases. However, the new variant, Omicron …is reported to be at least 3 times more transmissible than the Delta VoC (variant of concern), and is posing a new challenge for the Covid containment measures. In the countries with Omicron-driven surge, the growth trajectory of cases has been very steep. In our country, 578 Omicron cases have already been reported in 19 states/UTs,” Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote in a letter sent to chief secretaries of all states on March 22.
“Over the last 24 months, significant capacities have been developed for various aspects of management of the pandemic, such as diagnostics, surveillance, contact tracing, treatment, vaccination, hospital infrastructure. And, the general public now has a much higher level of awareness on the covid-appropriate behaviour. The states and UTs have also developed their own capacities and systems and implemented their detailed specific plans for managing the pandemic,” the letter said.
“Over the last seven weeks or so there has been a steep decline in the number of cases. The total caseload in the country stands at 23,913 only (on March 22) and the daily positivity rate has declined to 0.28 percent. It is also worth mentioning that with the combined efforts, a total of 181.56 crore vaccine doses have been administered,” the letter added.
The letter further states that after taking into consideration the overall improvement in the situation and preparedness of the Government to deal with the pandemic, National Disaster Management Authority has taken a decision that there may not be any further need to invoke the provisions of the DM Act for covid containment measures. After the expiry of the existing order on March 31, no further order will be issued by the Home Ministry.

However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare advisories on Covid containment measures, including on the use of face mask and hand hygiene, will continue to guide the overall national response to the pandemic. “In view of the nature of the disease, people still need to remain watchful of the situation…Whenever any surge in the number of cases is observed, states and UTs may consider taking prompt and proactive action at local level, as advised by the Ministry of Health from time to time. I would, therefore, advise all the states and UTs to consider appropriately discontinuing issue of orders and guidelines under the DM Act, 2005 for covid containment measures,” Bhalla said.
Bhalla also added, “The states and UTs may continue to follow the standard operating measures and advisories that have been or are being issued by the Ministry of Health from time to time for containment measures, vaccination and other related aspects.”
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