The Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement that it was not going to issue any further COVID-19 curbs and restrictions under the Disaster Management Act after the earlier recommended curbs expire on March 31, 2022. The Disaster Management Act was first brought into consideration for managing COVID-19 two years ago on March 24, 2020.
The letter dated March 22, also reads that masking and COVID appropriate behaviour such as social distancing and maintaining hand hygiene was necessary to be followed as these guidelines were recommended by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This advisory comes at a time when the world is witnessing a surge in cases but India is reporting less than 2,000 new cases daily.
Even though the Home Ministry has suggested removal of all curbs, it has left the final decision with the State governments. The MHA believes that the State authorities are in a better position to implement and ascertain any immediate changes that are required in the states. These guidelines will depend on how the State is tackling the SARS-CoV-2 virus.
What Will Be Discontinued?
The MHA letter stated that the country wide restrictions on movement, shutting down of spaces, and lockdown measures will now be dissolved. However, in his communication to the states, the Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also maintains that states should continue keeping an eye on the number of cases as other countries are reporting surges. If deemed necessary, states will provoke immediate action to tackle the situation.
This decision has been taken as the MHA believes that over the past 24 months, the country has developed significant capacities to manage COVID-19 along with spreading awareness among people about COVID appropriate behaviour. The country has seen acceleration in the availability of accurate diagnostics, vaccination capacities, improvement in surveillance and contact tracing, as well as hospital infrastructure, says the MHA in the letter.
These qualitative and quantitative changes have helped India reduce its COVID burden as well as increase its rate of vaccination. According to the MHA, the country now has sufficient knowledge and training to handle any probable further surges. The National Disaster Management Act, thus feels that there should not be any further restrictions invoked through the Disaster Management Act of 2005.
Masking, Social Distancing To Continue
The letter also highlights that only the measures recommended under the Disaster Management Act are currently being revoked. The norms and guidelines that are announced by the Health Ministry such as masking, maintaining hand hygiene and practicing social distancing will continue.
The MOHFW also tweeted that several media organisations had falsely reported that the masking mandate has been revoked, too.