Featured image: A man dressed as Santa Claus gives a gift to a COVID-19 patient at Yatharth Hospital in Noida. Photo: PTI/Arun Sharma
New Delhi: Afraid that new year’s eve celebrations may lead to another spike in coronavirus cases, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan has asked all states to ensure that no ‘superspreader’ events take place. Bhushan asked states to ensure adequate measures are in place on December 30-31, 2020 and January 1, 2021.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs has mandated that the States/UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions with a view to containing the spread of COVID-19 such as night curfew,” Bhushan’s letter said, according to The Hindu. The home ministry also made clear that there will be no restrictions on the inter- or intra-state movement of people or goods.
Restrictions put in place
Several states have put in place restrictions in line with these guidelines. Delhi has imposed a night curfew on December 31 and January 1, saying people must avoid large gatherings during New Year celebrations due to COVID-19 and its highly transmissible UK strain. The curfew will be in place from 11 pm to 6 am on both days.
The Kolkata police have taken measures to ensure that all COVID-19 safety protocols are maintained and there is no large gathering, as ordered by the Calcutta high court. Security has been beefed up in and around the city.
“We have taken all measures to ensure that there is no large gathering in and around the city during the New Year’s eve tomorrow. We have deployed senior officers in the rank of deputy commissioners in Park Street, Esplanade and other areas where people usually gather on the occasion,” an IPS officer told PTI.
The Mumbai police too announced a slew of restrictions. A night curfew is in place, prohibiting gathering of five or more persons between 11 pm and 6 am, police said in a release. Gatherings in restaurants, bars and pubs will not be allowed post-11 pm, the police said, adding loudspeaker/DJ music beyond permissible decibel limit and fireworks are also prohibited.
People are free to visit friends and relatives, but not in groups of more than four people, the Mumbai police continued.
The Odisha government has totally prohibited New Years Eve celebrations across the state, but allowed the reopening of cinema halls, theatres and other entertainment facilities from January 1, 2021 as a part of ‘Unlock 8’.
The Karnataka government too has said strict measures will be in place in Bangalore and across the state. Unlike in the past, people will not be able to gather in large numbers in the city in areas like MG Road, Brigade Road, Koramangala and Indira Nagar, among other places, as prohibitory orders are in place. The government, through guidelines and orders, has prohibited parties, special DJ dance programmes and special events at clubs, pubs, restaurants and other places that attract people in large numbers without social distancing.
Restrictions of this sort are not limited to India – across the world, countries are afraid New Year’s Eve celebrations may lead to a spike in COVID-19 cases, and have imposed restrictions.
What’s to come in 2021?
One thing everyone across India will be looking forward to as we enter 2021 is the rollout of a COVID-19 vaccine. In what was seen as some good news, the United Kingdom on Wednesday approved the vaccine developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca. This is the vaccine expected to meet a majority of India’s requirements, once approved for use here.
“This is very good news that AstraZeneca got approval for its vaccine by UK regulatory authorities. They have robust data and in India the same vaccine is being developed by the Serum Institute of India (SII). This is a big step forward not only for India but many parts of the world,” AIIMS Delhi director Dr Randeep Guleria told ANI.
“Now, we have data, and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine has been approved based on the studies in the UK, Brazil and South Africa. There is also data from SII. I think, once the data is shown to the regulatory authority, we should get approval for the vaccine in the county within a few days. I would say days rather than weeks or months,” he said.
Earlier, Union health minister Harsh Vardhan had promised that India would have a vaccine by the end of 2020. When it became clear that wasn’t going to happen, he changed his tune slightly to say that vaccinations would begin in “any week of January”.
“I personally feel may be in January in any stage or any week, there can be a time when we can be in a position to give first COVID vaccine shot to the people of India,” Harsh Vardhan told ANI in mid December. “India is not less than any country when it comes to COVID-19 vaccine and research. Our priority has been the safety and efficacy of the vaccine. We do not want any compromise on that. Our regulators are analysing them with seriousness.”
(With PTI inputs)