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Centre asks states to be stricter in containment zones, may reopen gyms but not malls

Mangalore Today News Network

New Delhi, May 29, 2020:   In the run-up to the end of the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba held a video conference with municipal commissioners and district magistrates of 13 Covid-19 hit cities that have contributed to more than 70% of the cases in the country.



Central government officials said that in the meeting, the Cabinet Secretary reiterated the need to seal the containment zones where number of cases are the highest, and took suggestions from states to decide the strategy from June 1.

“The cities were advised that the area (containment area) should be appropriately defined by the district administration and local urban body with technical inputs from the local level," government officials said.

News18 had reported on Wednesday that lockdown may be extended by another two weeks after May 31, but with considerable more relaxations. A senior government functionary told CNN-News18 that the Centre is willing to give more freedom to states to decide their lockdown norms post May 31.

Going by the demands of the states and the condition of economy, the Centre had given relaxations the last time it announced a two-week extension of the lockdown on May 17.

In lockdown 5.0, the government may also allow places of worship and gyms to reopen. Goa and Karnataka governments have also expressed interest to open up the hotel and hospitality sector.

Officials said schools, colleges, malls and cinemas are likely to remain shut for another two weeks, but all other sectors, state governments may be given freedom to decide.

The government’s concern on containment zones comes after reports said these areas were not being strictly demarcated and restrictions were not being enforced properly by some states. In the fourth phase of the lockdown, the government had done away with the colour-coded zones and only kept most restrictions for containment areas.

Union home secretary Ajay Bhalla had a week ago written to states that Centre’s guidelines must be followed.

"It has been brought to the notice of this ministry, that there are violations of MHA guidelines. Proper delineation of containment zones and effective implementation of containment measures within the zones is key to preventing spread of covid19," the May 22 letter read.

The 13 municipal commissioners who participated in the video conferencing were from Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmadabad, Thane, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata/Howrah, Indore, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur. Chief secretaries and principal secretaries (health) of all states and UTs also attended the video conference.

Officials said that in the video conference, states shared the measures that have been taken by the district administration and municipal corporations of the affected areas for the management of Covid-19 cases.

"The Cabinet Secretary will review and take suggestions from the state and then these will be discussed with other stakeholders like ministry of health, home ministry and Prime Minister’s Office before a final decision is taken," a union government officer told CNN-News18.

The central government has already issued guidelines on the management of COVID-19 in urban settlements. These include work on high risk factors, indices such as confirmation rate, fatality rate, doubling rate, tests per million people, among others.

The Centre has stressed that containment zones are to be geographically defined based on factors like mapping of cases and contacts and their geographical dispersion. This would enable in demarcating a well-defined perimeter and enforcing the strict protocol of lockdown.

Municipal corporations can decide if residential colonies, mohallas, municipal wards or police-station areas, municipal zones, towns can be designated as containment zones, as required.

The cities were advised that the area should be appropriately defined by the district administration and local urban body with technical inputs from local level.