The Centre on Wednesday advised all states and UTs to actively consider imposing local restrictions for upcoming festivals like Muharram, Onam, Janmashtami, Ganesh Chaturthi and Durga Puja and curbing mass gatherings.
In a letter to chief secretaries and administrators of all states and UTs, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan stated that the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) have expressed concern regarding the potential of such mass gatherings on festivals turning into super spreaders, leading to a spike in Covid cases.
While appreciating their efforts to curb the spread of cases in the country during the second wave of COVID-19, Bhushan said even though the trajectory of daily new cases has shown a steady decline over the last month, there are a few states which still reflect signs of upsurge in their daily cases and positivity.
In this regard he urged the states and UTs to refer to the directions issued under the Disaster Management Act by the Home Ministry on June 29 for focussed containment measures.
"In light of this order, and in view of upcoming festivals such as Muharram (August 19), Onam (August 21), Janmashtami (August 30), Ganesh Chaturthi (September 10), Durga Puja (October 5-15), where large public gatherings are expected, it is advised that states may actively consider imposition of local restrictions in public observation of these festivals and curb mass gatherings," Bhushan said in his letter.
"The ICMR and NCDC have expressed concern regarding the potential of mass gathering events during festivals turning into super spreader events, thereby leading to a spike in Covid cases," he said.
This was earlier communicated to the states and UTs vide letter dated July 20 by the Union Health Ministry.
"I would like to reiterate that any laxity in ensuring strict adherence to the five-fold strategy of Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate and Ensuring COVID appropriate behaviour, may result in losing the impetus that our country has gained so far in managing the pandemic. I look forward to your continued proactive measures in this regard, so that we may continue to build on the momentum gained in our collective response to COVID-19," Bhushan said in his letter.
The Centre on Tuesday said that the reproductive number or R-value that indicates the speed at which COVID-19 is spreading is more than one and is showing an increasing trend in eight states and UTs -- Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Lakshwadweep, Tamil Nadu, Mizoram, Karnataka, Puducherry and Kerala -- which is cause of concern.
The R number is a measure that highlights the number of people a coronavirus positive person infects, thereby reflecting the severity of its spread. A number of one or below one indicates a slowly spreading virus while any number above one indicates a rapid spread.
Also, 44 districts across 12 states and Union Territories, including Kerala, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, reported more than 10 per cent weekly positivity in the week ending August 2.
Further, 18 districts across six states -- Kerala (10 districts), Maharashtra (3), Manipur (2), Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Mizoram (1 each) -- are reporting an increasing trend in daily new cases in the last four weeks, officials said on Tuesday.