New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry on Wednesday (July 14, 2021), in a letter to all states and Union Territories, stated that blatant violations of COVID-19 norms have been observed in several parts of the country, including hill stations and asked the concerned authorities to ensure compliance to laid down guidelines.
The letter was signed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla. In the letter, Bhalla said COVID-appreciate behaviour is not being adhered to in public places as massive crowds are thronging marketplaces, violating social distancing norms. Putting emphasis on the consequent increase in the 'R'-factor (reproduction number) in some of the states, Bhalla said it is a matter of concern.
R factor refers to the reproduction rate which is the number of people getting infected by one infected person. The health ministry explains the R factor by stating an example. If the value of the R factor is above 1, it means that one infected person can spread the infection to more than one person which establishes that the infection is spreading.
"You may be aware that any increase in 'R' factor above 1.0 is an indicator of spread of COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that the authorities concerned shall be made responsible for ensuring COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) in all crowded places, such as shops, malls, markets, market complexes, weekly markets, restaurants and bars, 'mandis, bus stations, railway platforms, stations, public parks and gardens, gymnasium, banquet halls, marriage halls, stadia, sports complexes (if opened up by the State) as well as at all areas identified as hotspots for transmission of COVID19 virus," he said in the letter.
Meanwhile, according to the Institute of Mathematical Sciences finding, the R-value was 1.37 between March 9 and April 21. Between April 24 and May 1, it was 1.18, and then from April 29 to May 7, it was 1.10. Since then the value was decreasing.
The authorities said that lockdown and lockdown-induced curbs keep this value under check. If people do not go out, an infected person can't spread the infection.
In the letter, Bhalla also noted that the reach of vaccination is increasing considerably, but at the same time cautioned that the second wave of COVID-19 is not over yet and hence, there is no room for complacency and every citizen needs to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
"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," he said.
Bhalla said there should be continuous focus on the five-fold strategy for effective management of COVID-19 i.e. test-track-treat-vaccinate and adhere to Covid-appropriate behavior.
"I would, therefore, urge you to issue strict directions to the district and all other local authorities concerned to regulate the crowded places and take necessary measures for management of COVID-19. The officers concerned should be made personally responsible for any laxity in strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour," he told the states and UTs in the letter.
"I would also advise that orders issued by the respective state governments and UT administrations and district authorities in this regard should be widely disseminated to the public and to the field functionaries, for their proper implementation," he said.
(With PTI inputs)