New Delhi | Agencies: Amid fears over a second wave of COVID-19, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday asked states and union territories (UTs) to regular overcrowding and take all necessary steps to control the spread of infection during the upcoming festive season.

In a letter to all states and UTs, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said the country is passing through a critical juncture as COVID-19 cases and deaths have been on the rise.

Bhalla said after assessing the situation, guidelines for effective control of COVID-19 were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on March 23 and it has been emphasised that states and UTs should strictly enforce the 'test-track-treat' protocol.

It has also been told that COVID-19 appropriate behaviour should be observed and prescribed SOPs followed on various activities, such as opening of schools, higher education institutions, hotels and restaurants, shopping malls, multiplexes, entertainment parks, gymnasium, exhibitions, among others.

Further, states and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, are allowed to impose local restrictions at the district, sub-district, and city and ward levels.

"In view of upcoming festivals such as Holi, Shab-e-Barat, harvesting festivals, Easter, Eid-ul-Fitr, etc. the state governments and UT administrations should take necessary measures to regulate crowds during these festivals by ensuring strict observance of COVID appropriate behaviour, such as wearing of mask and maintaining social distancing, as mandated in aforesaid guidelines and in the National Directives for COVID- 19 Management," the communication said.

The home secretary also asked chief secretaries to issue necessary instructions to district administrations and police authorities to scrupulously enforce COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and SOPs in all public gatherings during the upcoming festivals.

Further, Bhalla said, campaign should also be intensified for creating public awareness.

"As has been emphasised time and again by health experts, strict adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour in public places and gatherings will help in breaking the chain of transmission and reduce the incidence of COVID cases in the country," he said.

India saw 59,118 new coronavirus infections in a day, the highest single day rise so far this year, taking the nationwide COVID-19 tally to 1,18,46,652, the health ministry said on Friday.

The active caseload breached the 4 lakh-mark again after around three-and-half months.

The death toll increased to 1,60,949 with 257 daily new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.

(With PTI inputs)

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma