In the context of prohibitory orders enforced by various district administration offices to contain the spread of COVID-19 infection, the Ministry of Federal Affairs and General Administration has issued a circular to all local levels to put in more efforts in the fight against the second wave of the pandemic.

In the circular issued today, the MoFAGA directed the local governments to accord first priority to prevention and control of COVID in their day-to-day activities. "The local units are requested to raise public awareness against the disease, mobilise volunteers as per requirement, make arrangements of disinfectant spray in their areas, and use loudhailers and local media to inform the citizens about public health protocols to be followed by them," read the circular.

The circular requires the mayor/ chairperson and chief administrative officer to regularise the supply of essential goods and services smoothly, while carrying out market monitoring to check hoarding, black-marketing and profiteering, in association with relevant agencies.

"The local levels are also urged to coordinate with the provincial government and administration for the prevention and control of COVID and to maintain austerity measures in the mobilisation of available resources and means," it stated. The MoFAGA asked the local levels to maintain inter-local level coordination against the pandemic, as may be needed.

"We request the local levels to write to the MoFAGA or other relevant ministries if there is anything required to be supported by them in the ongoing efforts to subdue the spread of the disease," it said. The local levels have also been told to strictly implement the 'Standard on Operation and Management of Quarantine for COVID-19 Quarantine Facilities' for providing basic amenities to quarantined persons.

The quarantine centres were found lacking in basic amenities and, skilled human resources and necessary medical equipment such as oxygen cylinders, ventilators etc. Quarantine is to restrict the movement or activities of persons who are not ill but are suspected to have been exposed to infection. There are many suspected cases quarantined in community-based facilities.

The MoFAGA directed the local governments to upgrade quarantine facilities in such a way that they met the standards set by the government.

Infrastructure was found to be insufficient at the quarantine facilities. As per the standard, the concerned local levels are required to enforce good hygiene practices and provide health and safety equipment at the quarantine centres. They need to be equipped with gender-friendly bathrooms and toilets, food, dining areas, visitors' entry and exit points and waiting rooms, among others.

Health workers deputed to the quarantine centres are also responsible for taking care of quarantined persons and maintaining social distance among them, communicating to them on a regular basis, ensuring availability of information, education and communication materials on prevention of exposure to COVID-19.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 19, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.