NEW DELHI: Delhi, Mumbai, and the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha on Wednesday made the wearing of face masks mandatory for people stepping out of their homes.
In the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir, the mandatory masks rule announced Wednesday was limited to all officers, staff and visitors to the Civil Secretariat, while in the UT of Ladakh it applied to the general public as well as all government officials, including personnel of the armed forces, and violation was made a punishable offence.
Mumbai municipal commissioner Praveen Pardeshi issued orders “in the largest public interest” saying the face covering must be a three-ply mask or a homemade one, and a person not wearing one outside the home could be arrested and booked under IPC Section 188 (disobedience of order duly promulgated by a public servant). Punishment under this section is a minimum six months’ imprisonment, and the order applies to ordinary citizens as well as all government officials. Masks are mandatory even when moving in one’s personal or official vehicle. No person/officer can attend any meeting, gathering, workplace, site without wearing a mask.
The new orders have been issued under Rule 10 of the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897.
The Maharashtra government’s general administration department also made masks mandatory for all staff in the Mumbai and Pune metropolitan regions. They must be worn from the time of entry to exiting a public office, said a circular. Masks are already mandatory at Mantralaya.
Dr Jayanti Shastri, head of Mumbai’s Kasturba Molecular Lab, said that with increasing asymptomatic infection, wearing a mask was important. “When a person talks, coughs or sneezes, there are droplets. The mask ensures the droplets do not fall on anybody or on a surface. It protects others from getting an infection,” she said.
The Delhi government announced its move on compulsory face masks after a high-level meeting chaired by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.
In UP, not wearing a mask or face cover will involve a penalty from now on, the details of which are being worked out by the government. On Wednesday, UP additional chief secretary (home) Awanish Awasthi said: “It has been decided that from now on it will be compulsory to wear masks. In fact, not wearing a mask may invite a penalty as well.” A GO issued later said the wearing of masks had been made mandatory under the Epidemic Diseases Act of 1897 and the UP Epidemic Disease (Covid-19) Manual, 2020. The GO also says that only health workers should use N-95 masks and recommends a three-layer cloth-mask, which can also be made at home, for common use. “If such a mask is not available, gamchhas, handkerchief or stoles could be used,” the GO recommends. “People should cover their faces and the masks or cloth should be washed with soap each time,” it says.
With effect from 7 am on April 9, it will be mandatory for people in Odisha to wear masks while stepping out of their homes. “The general public is directed to cover their mouths and noses with any available form of mask while stepping out of house. A handkerchief or any other piece of cloth in at least two layers can also be used for the purpose until further orders,” a government order said.
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan made the wearing of masks compulsory in the state, too, amid a surge of Covid-19 cases. After bringing masks under the Essential Services Maintenance Act, Chouhan urged people to “compulsorily put on mask before stepping out of the house”. “Even homemade masks can be used, but you must wear one,” he said.
The J&K government’s official spokesperson said on Wednesday, “The step is part of various preventive measures taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in the Civil Secretariat.”
“In this regard, the general administrative department issued an order today which reads that all the administrative secretaries have been authorised to purchase masks so that three reusable masks for each employee in each department in the Secretariat would be provided,” the spokesperson said,
The DM of Leh (in the UT of Ladakh), Sachin Kumar Vaishya, issued orders for the general public as well as government officials (both civilian and armed forces) to mandatorily wear face masks in public places, without exemption.
“In case of any violation, penal action under rules shall be taken against the violators. This shall come into force with effect from April 9,” he said in his order issued in exercise of powers under Section 34 of the Disaster Management Act, 2005.