New Delhi: The Centre has asked states and union territories to ensure that upcoming festivals are celebrated in a safe and cautious manner with "utmost precautions" in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to states and UTs, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said standard operating procedures issued last month for curbing any spike in cases must be followed.
"No mass gathering should be allowed in areas identified as containment zones and in districts reporting more than 5 per cent COVID-19 test confirmation rates," Bhushan said in the letter.
He said necessary directions should be issued adequately in advance by state governments concerned for practising caution during the festivities.
"Gatherings that are allowed with advance permission and a limited number of people (as per local context) should be closely monitored and in case of violations of COVID-appropriate behavior, necessary enforcement and penal actions should be taken.
"There should be strict adherence to limits on public gatherings taking into account availability of space to ensure effective physical distancing," the Centre said.
The Centre also asked states and UTs to explore and promote various modalities for online modes of celebrations, online shopping and discourage unnecessary travel.
The Centre said it is crucial that district health authorities keep a strict watch over local trajectory of cases and institute timely and rigorous interventions based on the advisories issued by the health ministry and Home ministry from time to time.
"States/UTs are further requested to ensure that non-adherence to COVID Appropriate behavior in public places is dealt with strongly. Inter-sectoral collaboration between health departments, law enforcement agencies, market and trade associations, civil society organizations, and community will be essential to curb any risk of a spike in COVID-19 trajectory," Bhushan said in the letter.