DESPITE the declining trend in new COVID-19 cases, the Central Government on Wednesday extended the safety guidelines directing the states and Union Territories (UTs) to maintain surveillance and follow containment measures till February 28. However, more relaxations have been permitted.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order which will be effective from February 1, 2021 and will remain in force till February 28. “The main focus of the guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of COVID-19 which is visible in the steady decline in number of active and new cases in the country over the last four months. It is, therefore, emphasized that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is a need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy focused on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines,”said the guidelines.

The new guidelines say that all activities have been permitted outside the Containment Zones. Social/ religious /sports /entertainment /educational / cultural/religious gatherings have already been permitted up to a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground/space in the view, in open spaces. Now bigger gatherings will be allowed subject to SOP of the State/UT concerned.

The guidelines say that cinema halls and theatres have already been permitted up to 50 percent of seating capacity. Now they will be permitted to operate at higher seating capacity, for which revised SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Swimming pools have already been permitted for use by sports persons. Now swimming pools will be permitted for the use of all, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in consultation with the MHA.

Business to Business(B2B) exhibition halls have already been permitted. Now all types of exhibition halls will be permitted, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Department of Commerce in consultation with the MHA.

For further opening up of international air travel, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) may take a decision in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs based on the assessment of the situation. The SOPs have been prescribed for various activities

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