Union Ministry of Home Affairs has asked chief secretaries of states and union territories to ensure strict adherence to the containment measures of Covid-19 prescribed by the health ministry till January 31, 2022. The ‘normative framework’ issued by the health ministry is aimed at evidence based containment measures to be taken at the district and local levels. The implementation of the directives in the framework will begin if Covid-19 test positivity rate is 10% or more for a week or 40% oxygen supported ICU beds get occupied in a district.

The states have been given the freedom to enforce the containment measures even before reaching these thresholds, if found necessary at the local level.

The directive comes in the wake of increasing cases of Omicron variant of Covid-19 from several parts of the country. In a letter to the states, Ajay Bhalla, Home Secretary, said that Omicron, reported to be 3 times more transmissible than the Delta variant 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 and UTs”, Bhalla said, adding that with distinct presence of the Delta variant and detection of Omicron cases in many states, there is need for greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making, and strict and prompt containment actions at the local and district levels, based on the assessment of the situation.

The letter also mentions the review meeting held by the prime minister on December 23 and wants states to strengthen their health systems. It also asks them to ensure that oxygen supply equipment are installed and are fully functional and the buffer stock of essential drugs should be maintained. Bhalla said there should be continued focus on the five-fold strategy — test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-19-appropriate behaviour — to avoid the possibility of surge in Covid-19 cases.

The framework includes containment measures like imposition of night curfew, testing and surveillance including door-to-door case search, clinical management by increasing bed capacity and strengthening other logistics, and 100% coverage of vaccination.

The national directive for Covid-19 management includes work from home, staggered work hours, screening and hygiene, frequent sanitation, social distancing and face covering.

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