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Nitesh Kumar Sahoo

New Delhi/Bhubaneswar: Amid a massive resurgence of COVID-19 cases across the country and following the reports of deaths of lions due to the lethal virus at a zoo in Hyderabad, India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has ordered a shutdown of all the national parks and sanctuaries across the country.

Realising the possibilities of COVID spread among the animals in National Parks, Sanctuaries, and other protected areas, and also the possibility of virus transmission from human to animals and vice-versa, the Ministry has taken such a crucial step.

All states and UTs have been directed to follow the directive of the Ministry without a fail.

The Ministry has released an advisory to the Chief Wild Life Wardens of all states/UTs regarding the crucial step to curb COVID transmission and proper management in National Parks/Sanctuaries and other protected areas.

Here are the directives from the Ministry:

  1. Close National Parks/Sanctuaries and other protected areas for tourists immediately.
  2. Take immediate preventive measures to stop the transmission and spread of the virus from humans to animals and vice-versa, in National Parks/Sanctuaries and other protected areas.
  3. Reduce the human-wildlife interface. There are reports of transmission from both symptomatic and asymptomatic carriers (human beings) of the disease and COVID-19 affected persons may or may not exhibit symptoms. Field functionaries must be COVID-19 negative when they are deputed for duty and should follow COVID appropriate behavior such as maintaining social distance, wearing masks, proper screening, regular sanitization, etc.
  4. Restrict the movement of people to National Parks/Sanctuaries and other protected areas.
  5. Constitute a task force/rapid action force with field managers, veterinary doctors, frontline staff to manage the situation as quickly as possible.
  6. Create a ‘round the clock’ mechanism with a nodal officer for swift management of any cases noticed.
  7. Set up essential services for emergency treatment of animals and their safe release back to their natural habitats, as and when required.
  8. Enhance disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system through coordinated effort amongst various departments.
  9. Maintain all other stipulations issued by the health ministry in the movement of staff/villagers, etc. in and around National Parks/Sanctuaries and other protected areas.
  10. Take other possible steps to control the spread of the virus.
  11. Report the action taken to this ministry.Earlier on May 4, as many as eight Asiatic lions of a zoo in Hyderabad had tested positive for COVID-19 after their saliva samples were thoroughly examined by CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology.

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