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Central government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (May 4 – May 11, 2020)

As of May 11, 2020, there are 67,152 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India.   Since May 4, 24,619 new cases have been registered.  Out of the confirmed cases so far, 20,917 patients have been cured/discharged and 2,206 have died.  As the spread of COVID-19 has increased across the country, the central government has continued to announce several policy decisions to contain the spread, and support citizens and businesses who are being affected by the pandemic.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the central government in this regard between May 4 and May 11, 2020.

Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; PRS.

Industry

Relaxation of labour laws in some states

The GujaratHimachal PradeshRajasthanHaryana, and Uttarakhand governments have passed notifications to increase maximum weekly work hours from 48 hours to 72 hours and daily work hours from 9 hours to 12 hours for certain factories.  This was done to combat the shortage of labour caused by the lockdown.  Further, some state governments stated that longer shifts would ensure a fewer number of workers in factories so as to allow for social distancing.

Madhya Pradesh has promulgated the Madhya Pradesh Labour Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020.  The Ordinance exempts establishments with less than 100 workers from adhering to the Madhya Pradesh Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1961, which regulates the conditions of employment of workers.  Further, it allows the state government to exempt any establishment or class of establishments from the Madhya Pradesh Shram Kalyan Nidhi Adhiniyam, 1982, which provides for the constitution of a welfare fund for labour.  

The Uttar Pradesh government has published a draft Ordinance which exempts all factories and establishments engaged in manufacturing processes from all labour laws for a period of three years.  Certain conditions will continue to apply with regard to payment of wages, safety, compensation and work hours, amongst others.  However, labour laws providing for social security, industrial dispute resolution, trade unions, strikes, amongst others, will not apply under the Ordinance. 

Financial aid 

Central government signs an agreement with Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank for COVID-19 support

The central government and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) signed a 500 million dollar agreement for the COVID-19 Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness Project.   The project aims to help India respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen India’s public health system to manage future disease outbreaks.  The project is being financed by the World Bank and AIIB in the amount of 1.5 billion dollars, of which one billion dollars is being provided by World Bank and 500 million dollars is being provided by AIIB.  This financial support will be available to all states and union territories and will be used to address the needs of at-risk populations, medical personnel, and creating medical and testing facilities, amongst others.   The project will be implemented by the National Health Mission, the National Center for Disease Control, and the Indian Council of Medical Research, under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Travel 

Restarting of passenger travel by railways

Indian Railways plans to restart passenger trains from May 12 onwards.  It will begin with 15 pairs of trains which will run from New Delhi station connecting Dibrugarh, Agartala, Howrah, Patna, Bilaspur, Ranchi, Bhubaneswar, Secunderabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Madgaon, Mumbai Central, Ahmedabad and Jammu Tawi.  Booking for reservation in these trains will start at 4 pm on May 11.  Thereafter, Indian Railways plans to start more services on new routes.  

Return of Indians stranded abroad

The central government will facilitate the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad in a phased manner beginning on May 7.  The travel will be arranged by aircraft and naval ships.  The stranded Indians utilising the service will be required to pay for it.  Medical screening of the passengers will be done before the flight.  On reaching India, passengers will be required to download the Aarogya Setu app.  Further, they will be quarantined by the concerned state government in either a hospital or a quarantine institution for 14 days on a payment basis.  After quarantine, passengers will be tested for COVID-19 and further action will be taken based on the results.    

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Assam Government’s Response to COVID-19

As of May 5, Assam has 43 confirmed cases of COVID-19.  Of these, 32 have been cured, and 1 person has died.  In this blog, we summarise some key decisions taken by the Government of Assam until May 5 for containing the spread of the pandemic in the state.

Movement Restrictions

For containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Assam took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.  On March 19, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued an order for closure of all museums, libraries, coaching centers among others until March 31.

Lockdown: To further restrict the movement of individuals, in order to contain the spread of the disease, the state government enforced a state-wide lockdown from March 24 to March 31.  The lockdown involved: (i) sealing the state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, (iii) closure of all commercial establishments, offices, and factories, and (iv) banning the congregation of more than five people at any public place.   Establishments providing essential goods and services were excluded from the lockdown restrictions.  Limited rituals were allowed in places of worship without any community participation.

This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 18.  Starting from May 4, based on the Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines, the state government has allowed certain activities with restrictions in green zones of the state.  Activities such as e-commerce for all commodities, construction activities in urban areas, functioning of government and private offices among others are being allowed in green zones.

Health Measures

The Assam COVID-19 regulations, 2020: On March 18, the government issued the Assam COVID-19 regulations, 2020.   These regulations are valid for one year.  Key features of the regulations are as follows: 

  • All government and private hospitals should have separate corners for the screening of COVID patients.  Further, they should record the travel history of such persons during screening,

  • No hospital can refuse the treatment of suspected/ confirmed COVID-19 cases,

  • People travelled through affected areas must voluntarily report to the authorities, and

  • District administration can take necessary measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as (i) sealing a geographical area, (ii) restricting the movement of vehicles and people, and (iii) initiating active and passive surveillance of COVID-19 cases.

The Assam COVID-19 Containment Regulations, 2020: On March 21, the government issued the Assam COVID-19 Containment Regulations, 2020.  These regulations detail the measures to be taken in case of community transmission within a geographical area.  These include enhanced active surveillance, testing of all suspected cases, isolation of cases and home quarantine of contacts, among others. 

Guidelines to Airports:  On March 18, the government issued instructions regarding procedures to be followed at the airports for the screening of passengers.  The guidelines allocate responsibilities such as thermal screening of passengers, counselling, transportation of passengers among others to various teams at the airports.

Medical colleges and Hospitals: On March 23, the Department of Health and Family Welfare directed all medical colleges and district hospitals to set up isolation wards.  On March 27, the Department of Health and Family Welfare released measures to be followed in medical colleges and hospitals.  These include: (i) seven days of training on critical care to all doctors, nurses, final year students of bachelor programs and Postgraduate students, (ii) Principals should set up a core team in every college for managing COVID-19 patients, among others.

Welfare measures

Food distribution: On March 28, the government decided to provide gratuitous relief such as rice, pulses among others to all wage earners, slum dwellers, rickshaw pullers, homeless, and migrant labourers living in municipal towns for seven days.

Minor Forest Produce (MFP): For enhancing the income of tribal farmers, the government revised rates of 10 MFPs such as honey, hill broom and added 26 new MFPs for Minimum support price in the state. 

One-time financial assistance for persons stranded outside India: On March 22, the government announced one-time financial assistance of $2,000 to residents of Assam stranded in foreign countries.  People who went abroad 30 days before the stoppage of international flights (on March 22) and are unable to return will receive this financial assistance.

Administrative measures

  • On March 21, the government constituted the task force at the State level and District level for implementation of various measures for containment of COVID-19 in the state. 

  • On April 2, the government constituted a committee for monitoring and checking of fake news across all forms of media.

  • On April 29, the Department of Finance announced certain austerity measures in the context of the fiscal situation that arose due to COVID-19. These include suspension of MLA area development funds from April to July 2020, reduction in establishment expenditure, and a ban on the purchase of vehicles by the government (except ambulances and for policy duty).

For more information on the spread of COVID-19, and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Central government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (Apr 27 – May 4, 2020)

As of May 4, 2020, there are 42,533 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India.   Since April 27, 14,641 new cases have been registered.  Out of the confirmed cases so far, 11,707 patients have been cured/discharged and 1,373 have died.   As the spread of COVID-19 has increased across India, the central government has continued to announce several policy decisions to contain the spread, and support citizens and businesses who are being affected by the pandemic.  In this blog post, we summarise some of the key measures taken by the central government in this regard between April 27 and May 4, 2020.

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Source: Ministry of Health and Family Welfare; PRS.

Lockdown

Extension of lockdown until May 18, 2020

The Ministry of Home Affairs passed an order extending the lockdown for two weeks from May 4, 2020 (until May 18, 2020).  Activities that remain prohibited in the extended lockdown include: 

  • Travel and movement: Passenger movement by: (i) air (except for medical and security purposes), (ii) trains (except for security purposes), (iii) inter-state buses (unless permitted by central government), and (iv) metro, remains prohibited.  Inter-state movement of individuals is also prohibited except for medical reasons or if permitted by the central government.  Intra-state movement of persons for all non-essential activities will remain prohibited between 7pm and 7am. 

  • Education:  All educational institutions such as schools and colleges will remain closed except for online learning. 

  • Hospitality services and recreational activities:  All hospitality services such as hotels will remain closed except those being used as quarantine facilities, or those housing persons such as healthcare workers, police, or stranded persons.  Further, recreational facilities such as cinemas, malls, gyms, and bars will remain closed. 

  • Religious gatherings:  All religious spaces will remain closed and congregation for religious purposes will remain prohibited. 

The revised guidelines for the lockdown include risk-profiling of districts into red, green and orange zones.  Zone classifications will be decided by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and shared with states on a weekly basis.  States may include additional districts as red or orange zones.   However, they may not lower the classification of any district.  For a district to move from a red zone to an orange zone, or from an orange zone to a green zone, it must have no new cases for 21 days.  Classification of and activities permitted in the zones include: 

  • Red zones or hotspots: These districts will be identified based on the total number of active cases, doubling rate of confirmed cases, and testing and surveillance feedback.  Additional activities prohibited in red zones include: (i) cycle and auto rickshaws, (ii) taxis, (iii) buses, and (iv) barber shops, spas and salons.  Activities that are permitted include: (i) movement of individuals (maximum two persons in four wheelers, and one person in two wheelers), (ii) all industrial establishments in rural areas and certain industrial establishments in urban areas such as manufacturing of essential goods, and (iii) all standalone and neighbourhood shops. 

  • Green zones: These zones include districts with no confirmed cases till date or no confirmed cases in the last 21 days.  No additional activities are prohibited in these zones.  In addition to activities permitted in red zones, buses can operate with up to 50% seating capacity. 

  • Orange zones: These zones include all districts that do not fall in either red or green zones.  Inter and intra-state plying of buses is prohibited in these zones.  Activities that are permitted (in addition to those permitted in red zones) include: (i) taxis with a maximum of one driver and two passengers, (ii) inter-district movement of individuals and vehicles for permitted activities, and (iii) four wheeler vehicles with a maximum of one driver and two passengers.

Certain areas within red and orange zones will be identified as containment zones by the district administration. Containment zones may include areas such as residential colonies, towns, or municipal wards. In containment zones, local authorities must ensure 100% coverage of Aarogya Setu App, contract tracing, quarantine of individuals based on risk, and house to house surveillance.  Further, movement of persons in or out will be prohibited except for medical emergencies and essential goods, amongst other measures. 

Movement of stranded persons

The Ministry of Home Affairs has permitted the movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students, and other stranded persons, by special trains.  To facilitate this, all states and union territories will designate nodal authorities for sending, receiving, and registering stranded persons.  The state sending persons and the state receiving persons both need to agree to the exchange.  Each train can carry up to 1,200 persons and no train may run at less than 90% capacity.  Passengers approved for travel by the state governments may be required to pay some part of the ticket fare. 

Education

UGC issues guidelines on examinations and the academic calendar for universities

The University Grants Commission (UGC) issued guidelines on examinations and the academic calendar for universities in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.  

  • Academic Calendar: Classes for the even semester in universities were suspended from March 16, 2020 onwards. The guidelines prescribe that online teaching must continue till May 31 through social media (WhatsApp / YouTube), emails, or video conferencing. The examinations for the current academic year should be held in July, 2020 and the results for the same should be declared by July 31 (for terminal year students) and by August 14 (for intermediate year students)

  • The Academic Session 2020-21 may commence from August 2020 for old students and from September 2020 for fresh students. The admission process for the fresh students can be done in August. Consequently, the commencement of even semester for 2020-21 can be from January 27, 2021. The commencement of academic session 2021-22 may be from August 2021. The universities may follow a 6-day week pattern to compensate the loss of teaching for the remaining session of 2019- 20 and the 2020-21 academic session.

  • Examination: The universities may conduct semester or yearly examinations in offline or online mode. This has to be done while observing the guidelines of “social distancing” and ensuring fair opportunity for all students. They may adopt alternative, simplified methods of examinations such as multiple choice questions based examinations or open book examination. If examinations cannot be conducted in view of the prevailing situation at the time, grading may be done on the basis of internal assessments and performance in previous semester. The universities may conduct the Ph.D viva examinations through video conferencing.

  • Other guidelines: Every University should establish a COVID-19 cell for handling student grievances related to examinations and academic activities during the pandemic and notify effectively to the students. Further, a COVID-19 cell will be created in the UGC for faster decision making.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

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Gujarat Government’s Response to COVID-19

On March 19, Gujarat reported its first two cases of COVID-19. Since then, the number of cases have risen steadily. As of May 2, Gujarat has 4,721 confirmed cases (second highest in the country, after Maharashtra) of COVID-19. Of this 3,750 are active cases and 236 have died. The state government has responded with various actions to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19.  In this blog, we look at the key measures taken by the Gujarat Government till May 1, 2020.

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Initial phase 

As COVID-19 cases were rising in other parts of the country, the Gujarat government notified the Gujarat Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 on March 14,. These regulations detail the responsibilities of hospitals and individuals, and the powers of officials with regards to COVID-19. These include: (i) flu corners in all hospitals for screening purposes, (ii) mandatory collection of travel history of people during screenings in all hospitals, (iii) mandating people with travel history to COVID-affected countries to be isolated /quarantined based on symptoms, (iv) forced detention and isolation of suspected patients who refuse voluntary isolation, and (v) containment measures in an area once positive cases are detected.   Some of the other early measures are summarised below:

Health measures

  • The COVID-19 regulations were immediately supplemented with the n-COVID-19 Guidelines. These guidelines cover: (i) case definitions, (ii) basic infection prevention control measures, and (iii) standard precautions to be followed during the care and treatment of suspected patients.

  • On March 15, the government instructed all higher education institutions and other educational institutions including schools, polytechnics, anganwadis, to shut down till March 29. However, examinations of class X, XII, and universities were permitted to continue. Further, spitting in public was made a punishable offence. 

  • On March 19, the government ordered the closure of gyms, amusement parks, wedding halls, till March 31. Additionally, all private doctors, practising modern as well as traditional systems of medicine, were instructed to report suspect cases to the government. 

  • Fever Helpline 104 was launched on March 20 for reporting of suspect cases of COVID-19. Further, guidelines were also issued on the reporting of cases of Severe Acute Respiratory Illnesses (SARI) to the government. These include: (i) preparation of travel history and contact lists of reported suspect cases, (ii) nodal officer to decide on steps and treatment protocol for such cases, (iii) relevant authorities to initiate follow up and contact tracing for the patient for last 14 days, and (iv) initiating cluster management guidelines when new cases emerge. 

Essential goods and services

  • On March 20, a committee was formed by the government for daily monitoring of the availability, supplies, and manufacturing of medicines, masks, and sanitisers. On March 21, a Khas Kharid Committee was set up to ensure procurement of necessary medicines, equipments, and human resources during emergencies, bypassing existing purchase guidelines, if necessary. 

  • Between March 21 and March 22, the government announced a partial lockdown and released a list of essential services and businesses that were allowed to operate till March 25 in the cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara,Rajkot, Kutch and Gandhinagar. These include: (i) government and municipal departments, (ii) shops selling essential goods, (iii) various medical facilities such as hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies, (iv) public utilities, (v) railways and transportation facilities, (vi) media, telecom, IT services, and (vii) banks and insurance firms.

  • The government also invited NGOs to collaborate in the fight against COVID-19, by arranging for the supply of masks, sanitisers, and infrared thermometers, and running awareness campaigns.      

Administrative measures

  • On March 18, the government issued guidelines specifying preventive measures to be taken in all government offices and employees. Recommendations inlcude: (i) avoiding face-to-face meetings and non-essential travel, (ii) closure of gyms and yoga centres in the Secretariat, (iii) home quarantine for officials exhibiting any symptoms, and (iv) mandatory leave to be given to such persons going on quarantine.

  • On March 21, the government released the terms of reference of Regional Nodal Officers appointed to work towards preventing the spread of COVID-19.

  • On March 23, the Gujarat Legislative Assembly decided to indefinitely postpone the Rajya Sabha elections that were originally to be held on March 26. 

Other measures

  • An advisory was issued requesting private firms to not lay off workers (even if they fall sick to COVID-19) or reduce their salaries. 

During the lockdown

On March 23, the state government extended and expanded the partial lockdown announced in select cities to the entire state. The lockdown was to be in place from March 23 to March 31. In addition to the exemptions announced in the partial lockdown orders, services such as (i) cattle feeding and veterinary services, (ii) stock broking, (iii) postal and courier services, and (iv) operation of industries where workers are available on site, were permitted.  The state-wide lockdown has been followed by a nation-wide lockdown since March 25 . This has been further extended until May 17.  Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Health measures

  • On March 27, all private clinics and hospitals in the state were directed to utilise the Dr. TeCHO mobile app developed by the government. The app can be used for uploading information related to: (i) sample collection and (ii) reporting and surveillance of all SARI cases. Another app was launched to keep track of home quarantined people. 

  • On March 30, COVID-19 was included as a notified disaster under the State Disaster Response Fund (SDRF). Thus, all expenditure related to relief measures for displaced / homeless people, migrant labour or other stranded persons due to the lockdown, will be made out of the SDRF. 

  • On March 31, the government released new guidelines for the clinical management of COVID-19. These cover: (i) triage activities, (ii) case definitions and classification, (iii) infection and prevention control measures, (iii) specimen collection and handling, (iv) management and prevention of medical complications, (v) clinical management for COVID-19, (vi) discharge policy for patients, and (vii) dead body management. 

  • To exclusively cater to COVID-19 cases, four government hospitals and three private hospitals were declared as designated COVID-19 treatment facilities. Further, the government instructed all COVID-19 hospitals to provide treatment to the people free of cost. On May 1, 26 hospitals were additionally designated as COVID-19 facilities.

  • Resource Management: Between March 31 and April 7, the government initiated multiple measures to address the shortage of medical practitioners in government hospitals. These include: (i) extending tenures of retiring medical personnel, (ii) ad-hoc recruitment of teachers in medical colleges, (iii) contract-based appointments of class-1 specialist and class-2 medical officers from private sector, (iv) additional responsibilities to select class-1 doctors from the epidemiologist department, and (v) temporary shifting of Ayurvedic medical officers to various locations.

  • On March 28, the state released guidelines for Human Resource management (HRM) in COVID-19 facilities. These include: (i) creation of district level task forces, (ii) patient flow algorithm, (iii) deployment and rotation of HR, including residents and nursing staff, and (iv) pooling of HR from various institutes and cadres. 

  • The state has also allowed the use of AYUSH remedies and medicines, particularly for persons quarantined through contact tracing and to frontline personnel. Teams of corona warriors have been formed to assist people with preventive care. In addition, local officials have been asked to utilise the services of important stakeholders such as teachers, priests, and others, who can influence the social behaviour of people to deal with COVID-19.

  • A new State Health System Resource Centre has been established as the nodal agency in the state for all COVID-19 related research. Further, a COVID-19 research activity committee has been set up to lead this endeavour.

Welfare measures

  • On March 25, the state government decided to provide ration to 60 lakh poor families who live on daily wages. Further, on March 28,  to minimise the adverse effects of lockdown on casual labour, autorickshaw drivers, and street vendors, the government announced free wheat, rice, pulses, sugar, and iodised salt for the month of April 2020. 

  • Vadil Vandana scheme was launched to provide free of cost meals to the elderly and the aged living alone in various cities of the state.

  • The state also announced that electricity bills from March 1 to April 30, can be paid by May 15.

  • The government announced compensatory packages worth Rs 25 lakh for each frontline worker who may lose life on COVID-19 duty. Such workers include: (i) police personnel and (ii) other government employees under the state government, panchayats, and nagar palikas .

Other measures

  • Industry: Relaxations from the lockdown were announced for factories and IT/ITES firms, from April 20 onwards. For factories, the conditions specified that adult workers shall be allowed to work for not more than 12 hours per day (six hours at a time) or 72 hours per week. Female workers are not allowed to work between 7 pm and 6 am. Wages are to be proportional to the existing wage structure.  IT/ITES firms are allowed operate in non-containment zones at 50% strength and social distancing norms will be required to be followed. 

  • Administrative: On March 30, the government issued an order to continue paying full wages to all fixed-pay government employees who are on leave or working from home during the lockdown. However, the employees are required to report to work whenever required by the government during the lockdown.

  • On April 15, nodal officers were appointed and given additional financial powers to take control of infectious disease control hospitals. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Telangana Government’s Response to COVID-19

As of April 30, Telangana has 1,012 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (9th highest in the country).  Of these, 367 have been cured, and 26 have died.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Telangana for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state and relief measures taken during the lockdown.

Movement Restrictions

For mitigating the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Government of Telangana took the following measures for restricting the movement of people in the state.

Closure of commercial establishments: On March 14, the government ordered for the closure of cinema halls, amusement parks, swimming pools, gyms and museums until March 21 which was later extended to March 31.

Lockdown:  To further restrict the movement of people, the state and central governments announced lockdown in the state and country.  The lockdown included: (i) closing down state borders, (ii) suspension of public transport services, (iii) prohibiting congregation of more than five people.  The entities providing essential commodities and services were exempted from these restrictions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country.  However, on April 19, the state government decided not to allow any relaxation in Telangana until May 7.

Health Measures

Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020: On March 21, the government issued the Telangana Epidemic Diseases (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020.  The regulations are valid for one year.  Key features of the regulations include:

 (i) All government and private hospitals should have dedicated COVID-19 corners,

 (ii) People who had travelled through the affected areas should be home quarantined for 14 days,

(iii) Procedures to be followed in the containment zones among others.

Private Hospitals: On March 22, for increasing the availability of healthcare facilities in the state, the government issued an order prohibiting private hospitals from performing any elective surgeries.  The hospitals were also instructed to have separate counters for respiratory infections.

Increasing the health workforce in the state: On March 30, the government issued notification for the recruitment of medical professionals on a short term basis.

Prohibition on spitting in public places: On April 6, the Department of Health, Medical and Family Welfare department banned spitting of paan, any chewable tobacco or non-tobacco product, and sputum in public places.

Welfare measures

To mitigate the hardships faced by the people, the government took various welfare measures. Some of them are summarized below:

Relief assistance: On March 23, the government announced the following measures:  

  • 12 kg of rice will be provided for free to all food security cardholders.
  • One-time support of Rs 1,500 will be provided to all food security card holding families for buying essential commodities such as groceries and vegetables.

Factories: On March 24, the government directed the management of factories to pay the wages to all workers during the lockdown period.  

Migrant Workers: On March 30, the government decided to provide 12 kg of rice or atta and one time of support of Rs 500 to all migrant workers residing in the state.

Regulation of school fees: On April 21, the government ordered all private schools not to increase any fees during the academic year of 2020-21.  The schools will charge only tuition fees on a monthly basis. 

Deferment of collection of rent: On April 23, the government notified that house owners should defer the rent collection for three months.  Further, the owners should collect the deferred amount in instalments after three months.

Administrative Measures

Deferment of salaries: The government announced 75% deferment of salaries of all the state legislators,  chairperson of all corporations and elected representatives of all local bodies.  The government employees will have salary deferment from 10% to 60%.  Employees of the  Police Department, Medical and Health Department, and sanitation workers employed in all Municipal Corporations and Municipalities are exempted from deferment of salary.

Chief Minister's Special Incentives: The government granted special incentives to certain categories of employees as follows:

  • Medical and Health Department:  The employees of the Department of Medical and Health were given an additional 10% of their gross salary as an incentive for March and April,
  • Sanitation personnel: The sanitation employees of Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation were given 7,500 rupees and the sanitation personnel of other local bodies were provided 5,000 rupees as incentives for March and April,
  • Police: The police personnel were awarded an additional 10% of their gross salary as an incentive for April. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Odisha Government’s Response to COVID-19

As of April 28, Odisha has 118 cases of COVID-19.  Of these, 37 have been cured, and 1 person has died.  In this blog, we summarise some of the key decisions taken by the Government of Odisha until April 28 for containing the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

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Before the lockdown

On March 24, the state government enforced state-wide lockdown.  Before enforcing it, the state government took several measures for preventing the spread of COVID-19 besides declaring it as a State disaster on March 13.   Some of the key measures are summarised below.

Health Measures

The Odisha COVID-19 Regulations, 2020: On March 18, the Government issued The Odisha COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations are valid for a year.  As per these regulations, both government and private hospitals must have dedicated COVID-19 isolation facilities.   

Foreign returnees: On March 16, the Government issued an order for foreign returnees to: (i) mandatorily register on COVID portal within 24 hours of their arrival (ii) home quarantine themselves for 14 days.  An incentive of 15,000 rupees will be provided for registration and completing home quarantine. 

Prisons: On March 17, the Government released precautionary measures to be taken in prisons by authorities and inmates.  Newly admitted prisoners should be quarantined in different wards for a week. From March 18, e-Mulakat was allowed in District headquarters jails.

Private Health Care Facilities: On March 19, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines for Private Health Care Facilities.  The guidelines specify the hospitals to have a COVID-19 specific counter with separate entrance, regulating the entry of visitors, and infection control measures.

Media: On March 21, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued guidelines to the media not to publish any information or interview the infected persons, their relatives, doctors and support medical staff of them.

Increasing the health workforce in the state: The Department of Health and Family Welfare issued an order on March 23 for the engagement of Staff Nurses and other Paramedics on a short term basis.  The hired employees will be provided with additional incentives. 

Administrative Measures

State crisis management committee: On March 4, a State crisis management committee was formed to take policy decisions regarding cluster containment.

Prohibiting strikes of employees: On March 21, the government issued an order prohibiting any strikes by employees engaged in the supply of drinking water and sanitation in urban local bodies.  The order is valid for six months.

Public and private establishments: On March 21, the government requested all public and private establishments not to terminate the employees or reduce their wages.

Movement Restrictions

Closure of commercial establishments: On March 13, the Department of Health and Family Welfare ordered for the closure of cinema halls, swimming pools, gyms and educational institutions except for holding examinations until March 31. 

Suspension of bus services: On March 23, the Department of Health and Family Welfare issued an order suspending intra-state bus services from March 24 and City bus services in all urban local bodies from midnight of March 23.

Lockdown in few districts:  On March 21, the government announced lockdown in five revenue districts and eight towns of the state until March 29.  The lockdown involved (i) suspension of public transport services (ii) closure of all commercial establishments, offices, and factories (iii) banning the congregation of more than seven people at any public place.

During the lockdown

With two cases in the state, on March 24, the government extended the lockdown to the entire state till March 29.  Establishments engaged in the supply of essential goods and services were excluded from this lockdown.

This was followed by a nation-wide lockdown enforced by the central government between March 25 and April 14, now extended till May 3.   Before the extension announced by the central government, the state government extended the lockdown in the state till April 30.

Starting from April 20, the central government allowed certain activities in less-affected districts of the country.  Further, on April 24, the Ministry of Home Affairs allowed the opening of certain categories of shops with a limited workforce.

Welfare Measures

The Odisha government announced several welfare measures to address the difficulties being faced by people during the lockdown.  Key measures include:

Temporary shelter for migrants: On March 28, the government ordered District collectors and Municipal Commissioners to use closed down schools and hostel buildings as temporary shelters for the migrants. 

Provision of food in rural areas: On March 30, the government decided to provide hot cooked food for needy people in rural areas at affordable prices.  Two meals per day will be provided at Rs 60 for adults and Rs 45 for children per day.

Compensation to family members: The Odisha government will be giving compensation of fifty lakh rupees to the family members of the employees who may die due to COVID-19 and are not covered under insurance scheme of the central government.

Administrative Measures

Ordinances: As the State Assembly is not in session, the government promulgated two ordinances.

  • The Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020On April 7, the government promulgated an ordinance to deal with COVID-19 spread.  The Ordinance amends Section 2 and 3 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.  The Act provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.  The ordinance amends the act to increase the penalty for individuals committing the offences under the act.  

Setting up control rooms: On March 26, the Home department set up a round the clock control room for monitoring the issues regarding the implementation of lockdown and stranded Odias in various parts of the country.  On March 27 and 28, three control rooms were set up in Bhubaneswar and Delhi for the migrant labourers.

Deferment of salaries: The government announced 70% deferment of salaries of all the elected representatives of the state and 50% deferment for the employees of All India Services such as IAS and IPS.

Implementation of MGNREGS: On March 31, the Department of Panchayati Raj and Drinking Water issued an advisory for the implementation of MGNREGS.  Key measures include: (i) Job cards will be provided to people interested in doing unskilled works, (ii) Individual works up to 5 persons is allowed (iii) Hand wash and safe drinking water should be provided at the worksites.

Essential Goods and Services

  • On March 25, the government authorised certain authorities to issue passes for the free movement of essential goods.

  • For facilitating the movement of goods, the government allowed the opening of roadside dhabas, and vehicle repair shops situated on Highways.  These should be located outside of towns and cities.  

Health Measures

Amendments to Odisha COVID-19 regulations, 2020

  • On April 3, the government added following provisions to the Odisha COVID-19 regulations, 2020: (i) additional duties and responsibilities of hospitals and local bodies such as infection control measures in hospitals among others. (ii) state government or empowered officers can declare any government or private hospital as COVID hospital. 

  • On April 9, wearing masks were made compulsory for the people stepping out their houses and were included in the regulations.

  • On April 16, the government included the ‘prohibition of spitting in any form in public places’ into the regulations.

Short term engagements: On March 27, the government invited senior professionals having expertise in various sectors such as health care management, international logistics, and charities to work as Honorary Advisors to Government on a voluntary basis.  The government issued an order for engagement of microbiologists on a short term basis.

Training of MBBS students- On March 28, the government decided to train the MBBS students of all medical colleges studying 7th, 8th and 9th semesters and deploy them if there is a rise in the number of cases in future.  Training of government establishments was taken up in the first phase. Private colleges were also requested to train doctors and students simultaneously. 

Additional resources: On April 6, the State Executive Department authorized the Principal Secretary, Department of Health to requisition the services of anybody having expertise in public health care management.  When the need arises, the government can use the services of healthcare professionals such as doctors, nursing staff from government or private organisations to assist the state government.  

Support to personnel fighting the Pandemic: On April 22, the government announced certain measures to support the personnel fighting COVID-19 in the state. They are

  • The Government will invoke the National Security Act, 1980 against the individuals causing violence to any member of the medical community such as doctors, nurses, and health workers. 

  • While on duty, if any government employee dies due to COVID-19, the family will get the salary until the retirement date of the deceased employee.

  • The cremation of the individuals dying due to COVID-19 on duty will be honoured by the state as usually accorded to the martyrs. 

Handling the return of migrants from other parts of the country: On April 19, the Revenue and Disaster Management department issued an advisory to Gram Panchayats and Urban Local Bodies for handling the influx of migrants from other parts of the country, once the lockdown is over.  The advisory has the following steps.

(i) All local bodies should have registration facilities.  People returning from other states should register through their relatives or family members.

(ii) All persons arriving from various states will be quarantined for 14 days.

(iii) An incentive of 2,000 rupees will be provided to the people for completing the quarantine period in the quarantine facilities.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Protection of healthcare service personnel

Amidst news reports of violence against healthcare workers during the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020 was promulgated on April 22, 2020.  The Ordinance amends the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.  The Act provides for the prevention of the spread of dangerous epidemic diseases.  The Ordinance amends the Act to include protections for healthcare personnel combatting epidemic diseases and expands the powers of the central government to prevent the spread of such diseases.

Who is considered a healthcare service personnel under the Ordinance?

The Ordinance defines healthcare service personnel as a person who is at risk of contracting the epidemic disease while carrying out duties related to the epidemic such as caring for patients.  They include: (i) public and clinical healthcare providers such as doctors and nurses, (ii) any person empowered under the Act to take measures to prevent the outbreak of the disease, and (iii) other persons designated as such by the respective state government.

What is considered an ‘act of violence’ under the Ordinance?

An ‘act of violence’ includes any of the following acts committed against a healthcare service personnel: (i) harassment impacting living or working conditions, (ii) harm, injury, hurt, or danger to life, (iii) obstruction in discharge of his duties, and (iv) loss or damage to the property or documents of the healthcare service personnel.  Property is defined to include a: (i) clinical establishment, (ii) quarantine facility, (iii) mobile medical unit, and (iv) other property in which a healthcare service personnel has direct interest, in relation to the epidemic. 

What are the offences and penalties outlined under the Ordinance?

The Ordinance specifies that no person can: (i) participate in or commit an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel, or (ii) participate in or cause damage or loss to any property during an epidemic.  A person committing these two offences is punishable with imprisonment between three months and five years, and a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakh rupees.  However, for such offences, charges may by dropped by the victim with the permission of the Court.  If an act of violence against a healthcare service personnel causes grievous harm, the person committing the offence will be punishable with imprisonment between six months and seven years, and a fine between one lakh rupees and five lakh rupees.   All offences under the Ordinance are cognizable (i.e., a police officer can arrest without a warrant) and non-bailable.

Do healthcare service personnel that face violence get compensation?

Persons convicted of offences under the Ordinance will be liable to pay a compensation to the healthcare service personnel whom they have hurt.  Such compensation will be determined by the Court.  In the case of damage or loss of property, the compensation payable to the victim will be twice the amount of the fair market value of the damaged or lost property, as determined by the Court.  

What protections did healthcare service personnel have prior to the promulgation of this Ordinance?

Currently, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for penalties for any harm caused to an individual or any damage caused to property.  The Code also prescribes penalties for causing grievous hurt i.e., permanent damage to another individual. 

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had released a draft Bill to address incidences of violence against healthcare professionals and damage to the property of clinical establishments in September 2019.  The draft Bill prohibits any acts of violence committed against healthcare service personnel including doctors, nurses, para medical workers, medical students, and ambulance drivers, among others.  It also prohibits any damage caused to hospitals, clinics, and ambulances.   

Table 1 compares the offences and penalties under the Ordinance, the draft Bill, and Indian Penal Code, 1860.

Table 1:  Offences and penalties with regard to violence against healthcare service personnel 

Offences and Penalties

Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020

Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of violence and damage to property) Bill, 2019

Indian Penal Code, 1860

Violence

 

  • Violence against a healthcare service personnel is punishable with imprisonment between three months and five years, and a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakh rupees.     (Act of violence includes harassment, hurt/harm, and damage to property)
  • Violence against a healthcare service personnel, is punishable with imprisonment between six months and five years, and a fine of up to five lakh rupees.     (Act of violence includes harassment, hurt/harm, and damage to property)
  • Causing voluntary hurt is punishable with imprisonment up to one year, or with fine up to Rs 1,000, or both.

Violence causing grievous harm

  • Violence against a healthcare service personnel causing grievous harm is punishable with imprisonment between six months and seven years, and a fine between one lakh rupees and five lakh rupees.
  • Violence against a healthcare service personnel causing grievous harm is punishable with imprisonment between three years and ten years, and a fine between two lakh rupees and ten lakh rupees.
  • Voluntarily causing grievous hurt is punishable with imprisonment up to seven years, and a fine.

Damage to property

  • Damage or loss to any property during an epidemic, is punishable with imprisonment between three months and five years, and a fine between Rs 50,000 and two lakh rupees. 
  • Damage or loss to any property of a clinical establishment, is punishable with imprisonment between six months and five years, and a fine of up to five lakh rupees.     
  • Loss or damage to the property worth Rs 50 or more is punishable with imprisonment up to two years, or fine, or both.

Sources: Epidemic Diseases (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, Healthcare Service Personnel and Clinical Establishments (Prohibition of violence and damage to property) Bill, 2019, and Indian Penal Code, 1860; PRS. 

Are there provisions for the safety of healthcare service personnel at the state level?

Several states have passed legislation to protect healthcare service personnel.  These states include: Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Delhi, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, Manipur, Odisha, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttarakhand and West Bengal.  

Most state Acts define healthcare service personnel to include registered doctors, nurses, medical and nursing students, and paramedical staff.   Further, they define violence as activities causing harm, injury, endangering life, intimidation, obstruction to the ability of a healthcare service person to discharge their duty, and loss or damage to property in a healthcare service institution.  

All state Acts prohibit: (i) any act of violence against healthcare service persons, or (ii) damage to property in healthcare service institutions.  In most of these states, sf a person partakes in these prohibited activities, he/she is punishable with imprisonment up to three years and a fine of up to fifty thousand rupees.  However, in certain states such as Tamil Nadu the maximum prison sentence may be up to ten years. 

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

Tamil Nadu Government’s Response to COVID-19

On January 17, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare acknowledged the emergence of COVID-19 pandemic that was spreading across China.  Tamil Nadu reported its first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 7, 2020.   As of April 28, the state has 1,937 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (seventh highest in the country).  Of these, 1,101 have recovered (third highest rate of recovery in the country among states with 100 or more cases) and 24 have died.  The state government has taken several actions to contain the spread and impact of COVID-19.  In this blog, we look at the key measures taken by the Tamil Nadu government between January 19 and April 28, 2020. 

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Initial phase

The Tamil Nadu government came out with a series of responses between January 19 and February 1.  These included: (i) readying Rapid Response Teams (RRTs) at state and district levels, (ii) setting up of a 24/7 control room, (iii) thermal scanning of air travellers from China, (iv) creating isolation wards in the General Hospitals of four major cities, and (v) running appropriate awareness campaigns. 

Some of the other early measures are summarised below:

Health measures

  • On March 13, the Governor declared COVID-19 to be a notified disease in the state of Tamil Nadu, under the Tamil Nadu Public Health Act, 1939.  Notifying a disease allows for incidences of the disease to be mandatorily reported to the government and in turn, helps authorities to respond with appropriate measures to prevent the spread of the disease. 

  • On March 15, the government prescribed the Tamil Nadu COVID-19 Regulations, 2020.  These regulations detail the responsibilities of hospitals and individuals, and the powers of officials in relation to the diagnosis, treatment, and containment of COVID-19. These include (i) creation of isolation wards in hospitals, (ii) containment measures in an area once positive cases are detected, and (iii) mandatory 14-day home isolation for asymptomatic air travellers from COVID-19 affected countries.

  • On March 15, the government also mandated a 14-day institutional isolation for all air travellers to prevent import of infections from other states.  The state also initiated setting up of testing camps and conducting disinfectation drives in the border districts. 

Travel and Movement

  • On March 15, the government notified a series of instructions that restricted the movement of people in the state.  These include (i) shutting down of establishments, such as, educational institutions (up to Class 5), theatres, malls etc, and (ii) banning of inter-state travel for 15 days. 

  • On March 16, the government announced additional restrictions till Mar 31, such as, closure of: (i) anganwadis and making alternate provision of dry ration for children at their homes, (ii) swimming pools, amusement parks, gyms, zoos, museums, bars, clubs etc, and (iii) all educational institutions, except the conduct of practical exams for class 10 and 12, and various entrance exams.  

  • State borders were sealed off for road traffic, except for movement of essential commodities, from March 20 to March 31.  Public transportation services, such as metro rail and inter-state private buses, were also suspended till March 31. 

  • The Prime Minister asked the country to observe a Janta Curfew from 7 am to 9 pm on March 22,. The state government further extended this curfew to 5 am on March 23.  Following this, the government immediately announced a state-wide lockdown from March 24 up to April 1. 

  • On April 5, the government issued an advisory for the quarantine of migrant workers and the conduct of health camps for them. 

Welfare Measures

  • On March 15, the government announced financial assistance of a total of Rs 60 crore to various departments, such as, health, transport etc, to take precautionary measures to combat COVID-19.

  • On March 24, the government announced the distribution of cash support of Rs 1,000 to all entitled family cardholders.  Further, they were also eligible for free supply of essential commodities such as rice, dal, sugar, etc, during the month of April, through the Public Distribution System (PDS). 

During the lockdown

A state-wide lockdown was announced from March 24 to April 1, followed by a nation-wide lockdown between March 25 and April 14.  On April 13, the state-wide lockdown was extended up to April 30. This was followed by the extension of the nation-wide lockdown from April 15 to May 3. Under this, certain activities could be resumed after April 20. 

Some of the key measures undertaken during the lockdown period are: 

Travel and movement

  • Amidst the lockdown, on March 25, the government notified that establishments providing essential goods and services, which were allowed to operate.  These included establishments such as  (i) police forces, (ii) treasury, (iii) public utilities, (iv) banks, (v) media, (vi) telecommunications, and (vii) shops dealing with food, groceries etc.  Further, on March 28, the government permitted a few agriculture-related establishments to operate, such as, Mandis, fertiliser shops, and agencies involved in procurement of agriculture products. 

  • An Expert Committee formed by the state government to formulate guidelines for phased exit from lockdown after April 20, recommended the extension of the lockdown till May 3.  Certain select activities were, however, permitted to resume operations from April 20 onwards. These include (i) MNREGA works related to irrigation and water conservation, (ii) rural construction projects on irrigation, dam safety, hospital buildings, roads and bridges, and (iii) state and central government offices at one-third capacity.  

  • In view of rising number of cases, on April 24, stringent curfew orders were passed in the districts of (i) Chengalpattu, (ii) Kancheepuram, and (iii) Thiruvallur. The curfew will be imposed between April 26 and April 29, from 6 am to 9 pm, and with more stringent restrictions than under the ongoing nation-wide lockdown, such as, (i) petrol bunks to operate only between 8 am and 12 noon, and (ii) supermarkets and shops to remain shut. 

  • Curfew orders were passed in 5 more districts.  In Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai, curfew is imposed between 6 am and 9 pm from April 26 to April 29.  In Salem and Tiruppur, curfew was imposed from April 26 to April 28. 

Welfare Measures

  • On March 30,   the government announced a cash assistance of Rs 1,500 per month to be credited into the bank accounts of differently-abled persons.  It also announced that transgenders without ration cards, were eligible to receive 12kg of rice, 1kg of dal, and 1 litre of cooking oil, from fair price shops (FPS).

  • On April 2, the government announced a concession package to manufacturers of COVID-19 related medical equipment, who will commence production before July 31, 2020. The package applied to both MSMEs and large manufacturers of equipment, such as, ventilators, Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) kits and medicines.  Some of the concessions include: (i) 30% capital subsidy, upto Rs 20 crore, (ii) 100% stamp duty waiver, (iii) 6% interest subvention for capital loans for two quarters, (iv) commencement of manufacturing without prior approval, and (v) provision of necessary land on priority basis for short-term/long-term leases, etc. 

  • Rs 50 lakh grant was announced to the families of frontline workers in the event of their unfortunate demise.  If infected by COVID-19, they are eligible for Rs 2 lakh assistance towards treatment costs.  In certain cases, if eligible, their kin would also receive a government job offer. 

  • On April 7, the government announced that MLALAD funds could be utilised for COVID-19 prevention and containment activities. A total of Rs 1.25 crore can be utilised towards prevention, containment, treatment, and purchase of medical equipment, PPEs etc.

Health Measures

  • On April 2, the government released a list of designated COVID-19 hospitals in the state. Instructions were issued to refer all COVID-19 positive cases exclusively to these designated hospitals. However, willing citizens were also permitted to approach private hospitals, at their own cost. Private hospitals were further instructed to establish dedicated fever clinics to cope with the increasing load of flu and fever cases.

  • Amidst a rise in the number of cases, on April 4, the government issued instructions to: (i) avoid all kinds of religious gatherings, (ii) hospitals to not show religious bias in treating patients, and (iii) doctors to coordinate with the government and check in on the mental health of quarantined patients via video conferencing facilities such as Skype.

  • On April 5, the government issued cluster containment measures to stop the transmission, morbidity, and mortality associated with the further spread of COVID-19. This was in response to the large number of imported infections from the attendees of the Nizamuddin conference in Delhi. 

  • Resource Management: On March 27, the Chief Minister announced an additional COVID-19 related recruitment of doctors and lab technicians. The recruited members were to join within three days of the notification. On April 25, an additional 1,323 nurses were also recruited.

  • A two-month extension was announced to the tenures of medical professionals retiring on March 31 and April 30.

  • The government also instructed District Authorities to ensure the protection of doctors and other hospital staff who are being forcefully evicted from their houses by landlords. As a measure to develop immunity against COVID-19, the government, on April 25, also recommended providing Zinc and Vitamin tablets, and herbal powder to all personnel on frontline duty in containment areas. 

Other Measures

  • Administrative: Eleven committees have been formed to coordinate implementation of various welfare programmes. In all districts, Crisis Management Committees have been formed under the district collector. 

  • Education: The conduct of semester examinations in universities and colleges is postponed to the beginning of the next academic year, as and when the institutions reopen. Private colleges and schools were also instructed to not compel students/parents to pay pending dues for 2019-20 or advance fees for 2020-21. 

  • Industry: On April 22, the government released a list of industries classified as continuous process industries. These are companies where the production lines are functioning 24/7. The list includes (i) refineries, (ii) large steel plants, (iii) large cement plants, (iv) sugar mills, (v) large paper mills, (vi) tyre manufacturers etc. 

  • Technology: The government launched a Whatsapp Chat Bot for providing latest information and guidance related to COVID-19 in both Tamil & English.

For more information on the spread of COVID-19 and the central and state government response to the pandemic, please see here.

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