The Centre on Tuesday extended the nationwide COVID-19 containment measures till October 31 in view of localised spreads of the virus in a few states and the disease continuing to be a public health challenge in the country.
In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and union territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also cautioned against the possibility of COVID-appropriate behaviour not being adhered to strictly during the upcoming festival which may lead to a surge in cases again.
Despite a decline in COVID-19 cases, it is critical to enforce guidelines that allow regular festivities in a cautious, safe and COVID-appropriate manner, he asserted.
He said the daily COVID-19 cases and the overall number of COVID-19 patients in the country are decreasing steadily but there are still localised spreads of virus in a few states and COVID-19 continues to be a public health challenge in the country.
"Utmost vigil has to be maintained in respect of mass gathering events, so as to avoid any possibility of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
"Consequently, large scale gatherings in fairs, festivals; and religious events and functions may lead to afresh surge in COVID-19 cases in the country," the communication said.
The home secretary said states and UTs, on a regular basis, should closely monitor case positivity, hospital, ICU beds occupancy of every district falling under their jurisdiction.
"The state governments and UT administrations concerned, having high positivity in their districts, should take proactive containment measures so as to effectively arrest the spike in cases and to contain the spread of transmission," he said.
Mr Bhalla said it is important to identify warning signs of potential surges early on and to take appropriate measures to curb the spread.
"This would require a localised approach, as has been mentioned in Ministry of Health and Family Welfare advisory dated September 21, 2021," he said.
The home secretary said there should be a continued focus on the five-fold strategy i.e. Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to COVID-appropriate behaviour, to safely navigate through the festive season and avoid the possibility of a surge in COVID-19 cases.
He said the state governments and UT administrations should continue with their vaccination programme with a focus to accelerate vaccination of eligible age groups and prioritisation of the second dose to eligible beneficiaries.
The home secretary urged the chief secretaries to issue directions to the district and all other local authorities concerned to take necessary measures as advised in the union health ministry advisory for prompt and effective management of COVID-19.
"I would also advise that orders issued by the respective state governments and UT administrations or district authorities in this regard should be widely disseminated to the public and to the field functionaries for their proper implementation," he said.
The number of fresh coronavirus cases was recorded at below 20,000 (18,795) in India after 201 days on Tuesday, taking the country's COVID-19 tally to 3,36,97,581, while the number of active cases declined to 2,92,206, the lowest in 192 days, according to the Union health ministry.
A total of 18,795 fresh COVID-19 cases were registered in a span of 24 hours, while the deaths due to the viral disease climbed to 4,47,373 with 179 more fatalities, the lowest in 193 days, according to the ministry's data updated at 8 AM.