New Delhi, Jan 27: Despite the declining trend in new COVID-19 cases, the Central government on Wednesday extended the safety guidelines directing the states and Union territories 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 stated.

“It is, therefore, emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy focused on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines,” it added.

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 per cent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground/space in 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 per cent of seating capacity. Now they will be permitted to operate at higher seating capacity, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting in consultation with the MHA.

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.

The 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 may take a decision in consultation with the MHA based on the assessment of the situation.

The SOPs have been prescribed for various activities. The SOPs will be updated from time to time for movement by passenger trains; air travel; metro trains; schools; higher educational institutions; hotels and restaurants; shopping malls, multiplexes and entertainment parks; yoga centres and gymnasiums.

However, there will be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods, including those for cross land-border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movements.

Persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidity, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years have been advised to take the necessary precautions. – IANS