New Efforts to Manage India’s Second Wave of COVID-19 Infections

As has been well-documented over the past several weeks, India has experienced a significant second wave of COVID-19 infections. In light of the unprecedented surge in COVID-19 cases across the country, at least 11 Indian states and union territories have imposed COVID-19 restrictions. This past weekend, the eastern state of Odisha and the northern industrial state of Haryana became the latest to announce new lockdowns, joining Delhi, Karnataka, Maharashtra and West Bengal, among others.

Although the Indian central government has been reluctant to impose a nationwide lockdown due to its potential impact on the economy, on April 29, 2021, the Indian Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order and national directive (MHA Order) recommending that state governments follow the guidelines that have been issued by the Indian Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW Guidelines). The MoHFW Guidelines include the following key provisions:

  • Implement public health measures to contain transmission of COVID-19 by quarantining, testing, isolating and creating mini-containment zones
  • Prohibit gatherings and congregations
  • Close public places, including malls, gyms, cinema halls, restaurants and bars, sports complexes, and religious places, among others
  • Public and private offices may function at a limited capacity (up to 50%)
  • Implement the “Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate” strategy
  • All eligible individuals (i.e., all individuals 18 years of age and older) should vaccinate, and state governments should increase the number of vaccination centers

Despite these restrictions, essential services and activities may continue to operate.

Specific to workplace safety recommendations, Indian state governments have been advised to follow additional practices and procedures:

  • Employers should encourage employees to work from home to the greatest extent possible
  • Employers should stagger work/business hours
  • All sanitary measures should be implemented (e.g., temperature screening, hand washing/sanitation at all workplace entry and exit points and common areas)
  • Employees should comply with all social distancing measures

Currently, the MHA Order will remain in force until May 31, 2021.

We continue to track how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting employer–employee relations in both US and non-US jurisdictions.