New Delhi: With the COVID-19 cases declining significantly over the past few weeks, several states have decided to lift all the pandemic-related restrictions, including the mandatory wearing of face masks.
Maharashtra, one of the worst-hit states, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland announced that all curbs related to the viral disease would be lifted, while Delhi decided to do away with the mandatory wearing of face masks at public places.
The withdrawal of the COVID-19 curbs came almost two years after the pandemic struck in March 2020. It is expected that some other states may follow suit in the coming days.
At a meeting of the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) chaired by Lt Governor Anil Baijal, it was decided that there will be no fine for not wearing face masks at public places in the national capital, officials said.
They added that the DDMA, however, is likely to issue an advisory for people, asking them to use masks at crowded places.
Currently, there is a fine of Rs 500 for not wearing masks at public places in Delhi.
In Maharashtra, the state government announced that all Covid-related curbs, including the wearing of masks, would be lifted from April 2.
The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Health Minister Rajesh Tope told reporters.
"From Gudhi Padwa (Marathi New Year which falls on April 2 this time), all COVID-19 related restrictions under the Epidemic Diseases Act and Disaster Management Act will be withdrawn," Tope said.
Wearing of face mask will be voluntary from April 2, he said.
Similarly, the West Bengal government said that all curbs related to the contagion would stand withdrawn from April 1.
In a notification, the government, however, stressed the use of masks and hygiene maintenance.
"Accordingly, it is hereby notified that restrictions as currently in force by aforesaid orders are hereby withdrawn. However, advisory in respect of health and hygiene protocols, including wearing of masks at all times, hand hygiene and sanitisation of public places shall continue to be strictly observed until further order," it stated.
The Himachal Pradesh government has also decided to withdraw COVID-19 restrictions after a steep decline in coronavirus cases in the state but advised people to continue using masks and maintain hand hygiene.
The Disaster management cell of the state revenue department issued the order on Thursday.
"Taking note of the present Covid situation in the state and after taking into consideration the overall improvement in the situation with a steep decline in positivity rate and preparedness of the government to deal with the pandemic, HPSDMA has decided that there may not be any further need to invoke the provisions of the Disaster Management Act for COVID-19 containment measures," it stated.
"Therefore, all the restrictions for containment of COVID-19 issued by the State Executive Committee (SEC) are hereby withdrawn."
In view of the continuous dip in coronavirus cases, the Union Home Ministry had decided to end all COVID-19 containment measures from March 31.
Meanwhile, with 1,260 new coronavirus infections reported in a day, India's Covid tally rose to 4,30,27,035, while the active cases dipped to 13,445, the Union health ministry said.
The death toll climbed to 5,21,264 with 83 fresh fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed.
India's COVID-19 tally had surpassed the three-crore mark on June 23 last year.
(With inputs from agencies)