Govt asks states to consider imposing local restrictions for upcoming festivals

On Wednesday, the Centre asked all states and union territories to seriously consider implementing local restrictions and limiting large gatherings during upcoming holidays such as Muharram, Onam, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Durga Puja.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have expressed concern about the potential of such mass gatherings on festivals turning into super spreaders, leading to a spike in Covid cases, according to Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan in a letter to chief secretaries and administrators of all states and UTs.

Despite the fact that the trajectory of daily new cases has shown a steady decline over the last month, Bhushan said there are a few states that still show signs of upsurge in their daily cases and positivity, praising their efforts to curb the spread of cases in the country during the second wave of COVID-19.

In this respect, he asked the states and UTs to follow the directives given by the Home Ministry on June 29 under the Disaster Management Act for focused containment efforts.

“In light of this order, and in light of upcoming festivals such as Muharram, Onam, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi, and Durga Puja, where large public gatherings are expected,” Bhushan wrote in his letter, “it is advised that states actively consider imposition of local restrictions in public observation of these festivals and curb mass gatherings.”

“The ICMR and NCDC have voiced worry about the possibility of large-scale gatherings during festivals becoming super spreader events, resulting in an increase in Covid cases,” he added.

The Union Health Ministry had already informed the states and UTs of this in a letter dated July 20.

“I’d want to emphasise that any lapse in guaranteeing rigorous adherence to the five-point plan of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and Ensuring COVID-appropriate behaviour may result in our country losing the momentum it has achieved in controlling the epidemic thus far.” In his letter, Bhushan added, “I look forward to your continuing aggressive efforts in this respect, so that we can continue to build on the momentum established in our joint reaction to COVID-19.”

The Centre said on Tuesday that the reproductive number, or R-value, which indicates the rate at which COVID-19 is spreading, is greater than one and is increasing in eight states and UTs, including Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshwadweep, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry, and Kerala, which is cause for concern.

The R number is a metric that shows the number of persons infected by a coronavirus positive person, indicating the severity of the virus’s transmission. A virus that spreads slowly has a number of one or less, whereas a virus that spreads quickly has a number greater than one.

In the week ending August 2, 44 districts in 12 states and union territories, including Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, and Meghalaya, registered weekly positive of more than 10%.

Furthermore, officials stated on Tuesday that 18 districts across six states — Kerala (10 districts), Maharashtra (3), Manipur (2), Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, and Mizoram (1 each) — are reporting an increase in daily new cases in the previous four weeks.

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