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New Delhi: With festival season going on in the country, crowds are seen returning to the market and other public places and thus, with an aim to keep COVID-19 cases from surging during festivals, the central government has issued a fresh set of Covid guidelines to the state governments. The advisory that the government has issued, comes in backdrop of the fact that there is a huge spike in cases in the United Kingdom and other parts of Europe, China, Russia. All the states have been asked to make sure that citizens are following the basic COVID-19 norms such as wearing a mask and maintaining social distance. The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) has also asked states and Union Territories (UTs) to increase the pace of their vaccination drive and administer the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to the citizens as soon as possible.
All States/UTs have been advised to take the following guidelines in view of upcoming festivities:
- No mass gathering should be allowed in areas identified as containment zones and in districts reporting more than 5 per cent COVID-19 test confirmation rates.
- Promote online modes of shopping and purchasing and discourage unnecessary travel.
- Gatherings that are allowed with advance permission and a limited number of people (as per local context) should be closely monitored and in case of violations of COVID appropriate behaviour necessary enforcement and penal actions should be taken.
- Public gatherings should be limited by the concerned authorities, taking into account the availability of space to ensure effective social distancing.
- The five pillars of COVID management- Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and COVID appropriate behavior- need to be kept in mind by all the states and UTs during this festive season.
Stressing on following the guidelines strictly, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan, said in a letter to states,
States/UTs are further requested to ensure that non-adherence to COVID Appropriate behavior in public places is dealt with strongly. Inter-sectoral collaboration between health departments, law enforcement agencies, market and trade associations, civil society organisations, and community will be essential to curb any risk of a spike in COVID-19 trajectory.
Talking about the set of ‘dos and don’ts’ issued by the government, Dr Romil Tickoo, Internal Medicine Specialist, Max Healthcare, New Delhi said,
We have seen what happens post the festive season. Whether it is Onam or Diwali or Ganesh Chaturthi, there is almost always a spike. So, we have to be extremely careful in the coming days. It is because we’ll have these localised spikes again. It is a huge country and just because we are doing well at the moment, does not mean that the pandemic is over. And we have to learn from the countries like Russia, China, UK where lockdowns are being announced again and schools are being closed. We had a devastating second wave. We have to learn from our mistakes. We can always celebrate from our homes. We can avoid non-essential travel. We can do online shopping. But don’t be part of these large gatherings- whether it is a place of worship or a mall.
Dr Rajesh Parikh, Director of Medical Research and Honorary Neuropsychiatrist at the Jaslok Hospital & Research Centre, Mumbai highlighted that the COVID-19 cases have been increasing in the countries where the percentage of people being double vaccinated is much more than India. However, cases in India continue to be under-control. He said,
The virus is mutating all the time. The Delta plus variant is not gone and we have a new variant now called AY.4.2 and it is about 50 per cent more infective than the Delta plus variant which itself was a lot more infective than the Delta variant. So, the important thing to keep in mind is that we should not get desensitised. The virus knows no borders. The disease spreads internationally. As long as one of us is unsafe, all of us are unsafe.
Dr Tickoo said that even after taking the vaccine one can get infected but still it is important to take the COVID-19 vaccine shot. He said,
You can always get infected even if you are vaccinated. The idea of vaccination is to prevent hospitalisation and mortality. The efficacy of vaccines which have been approved is more than 90 per cent as far as prevention of hospitalisation and mortality is concerned. So, the focus should be on vaccinating those who have received one dose. 31 per cent of the eligible population has received the full vaccine. Second dose needs to be a priority now because vaccination still holds key.
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