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Consider imposing local bans during festivals: Centre to states

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New Delhi, Mar 24: Amid a fresh spike in COVID-19 cases, the Centre on Wednesday advised the states and union territories to consider imposing local restrictions in public observation of upcoming festivals like Holi, Shab-e-Barat, and Easter among others and limit or do away with mass gatherings.

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In a letter, Health Ministry Additional Secretary Arti Ahuja stated that the battle against COVID-19 is at a critical juncture with rising number of cases and deaths being reported from many parts in the recent past.

"...in view of upcoming festivals such as Holi, Shab-e-Barat, Bihu, Easter and Eid-ul-Fitr, etc., it is strongly advised that states may consider imposing local restrictions in public observance of these festivals and limit/do away with mass gatherings in exercise of the powers conferred under Section 22 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005," the letter read.

Ahuja asked states to refer to the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 23 for effective control of COVID-19, and also attached the order issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority for reference.

"Any laxity at this point in ensuring strict adherence to various SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health to contain the spread of COVID-19 may result in losing the impetus and benefits that our country has gained so far in managing the virus. Strict adherence to COVID-19-appropriate behaviour in public places and gathering is the key to break the chain of transmission and reduce the incidence of cases in the country," the letter stated.

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Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an Order on Tuesday with Guidelinesf or effective control of COVID-19, which will be effective from April 1, 2021, April 30, 2021.

Keeping in view a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, which is being witnessed in some parts of the country, the guidelines mandate the State/ UT Governments to strictly enforce the Test- Track-Treat protocol in all parts of the country; ensure observance of COVID appropriate behaviour by everyone; and, to scale up the vaccination drive, to cover all the target groups.

It is also emphasised that in order to ensure that the resumption of activities is successful and to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, and strictly observe the guidelines/ SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW) and other Ministries/ Departments of the Central Government and State/ UT Governments.

India recorded 47,262 fresh coronavirus cases in a day, the highest single-day rise so far this year, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,17,34,058.

The active caseload registered an increased for the 14th day in row and was recorded at 3,68,457, comprising 3.14 per cent of the total infections, while the recovery rate further dropped to 95.49 per cent, the ministry data updated at 8 am said.

The daily rise in infections was the highest recorded in 132 days, while the country''s COVID-19 death toll increased to 1,60,441, with 275 new fatalities, the highest in around 83 days.

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