India extends lockdown again, but with relaxations

States to decide ‘Zones’ and activities to be allowed in them, national directives continue to be in force everywhere

GN Bureau | May 18, 2020


#COVID-19   #coronavirus   #epidemic   #healthcare   #lockdown   #railways   #economy  
(GN photo)
(GN photo)

India has decided to extend the lockdown, in place since March 24, once again – till May 31 now – though with more and more relaxations, even as the number of infections in the country has crossed 90,000 mark. As the third phase of the lockdown ended Sunday, the central government decided to extend it to the fourth phase, while leaving it to the states to decide on classification of areas into red, orange and green zones and allowing various activities there.

“Lockdown measures in place since March 24, 2020 have helped considerably in containing the spread of COVID-19. It has therefore been decided to further extend the lockdown till May 31, 2020.  Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Government of India (GoI) issued an order, today, under the Disaster Management (DM) Act, 2005, in this regard,” an official announcement said on Sunday.

The salient features of the new guidelines are as follows:

States to decide various zones
Under the new guidelines, states and union territories (UTs) will  now delineate Red, Green and Orange zones taking into consideration the parameters shared by the health ministry. The zones can be a district, or a municipal corporation/ municipality or even smaller administrative units such as sub-divisions, etc, as decided by States and UTs.

Within the red and orange zones, containment and buffer zones will be demarcated by the local authorities, after taking into consideration the health ministry guidelines. 

Within the containment zones, only essential activities shall be allowed. Strict perimeter control shall be maintained, and no movement of persons would be allowed, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services.  Buffer zones are areas adjoining each containment zone, where new cases are more likely to appear.  In the buffer zones, more caution needs to be exercised.

Activities prohibited throughout the country
A limited number of activities will continue to remain prohibited throughout the country. These include all domestic and international air travel of passengers, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA; metro rail services; running of schools, colleges, educational and training/coaching institutions; hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services, except for the running of canteens in bus depots, railway stations and airports; places of large public gatherings such as cinemas, shopping malls, gymnasiums entertainment parks, etc.; social, political, cultural and similar gatherings and other large congregations; and, access to religious places/places of worship for public.  
 
However, online/ distance learning shall be permitted and encouraged; and, restaurants will be allowed to operate kitchens for home delivery of food items.
 
Opening up of sports activities
Sports complexes and stadia will be permitted to open only for sports activities.  However, spectators will not be allowed in these complexes.

Activities permitted with restrictions
In order to facilitate the movement of persons, various modes of transport have already been opened up. Movement of individuals by trains has been permitted earlier by MHA through an order dated 11.05.2020.  Further, evacuation of foreign nationals from India, return of stranded Indian nationals from abroad, sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers, and intra-state and inter-state movement of stranded persons by bus and train, will continue to be allowed.

Inter-state movement of vehicles and buses has also been allowed with mutual consent of the concerned States/ UTs.  Intra-State movement of vehicles and buses can be decided by the States and UTs. 

National directives for COVID-19 management
The guidelines specify the National Directives for COVID-19 management, which shall apply to public places and work places. 

Under these guidelines, wearing of face covers is compulsory; spitting will be punishable with fine as may be prescribed in accordance with its laws, rules or regulations by the state/ UT local authority; and social distancing is to be followed by all persons in public places and in transport. Marriage-related gathering shall not have more than 50 guests. For funerals/ last rites, the maximum number of persons allowed has been kept at 20. Consumption of liquor, paan, gutkha and tobacco etc., is not allowed in public places.

The national directives also stipulate additional requirements for workplaces. The practice of work from home (‘WfH’) should be followed to the extent possible; and staggering of work hours should be adopted in respect of all offices and other establishments.  There should be provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizers at all entry and exit points and common areas; and all work places and other sensitive locations are to be sanitized regularly.  In work places, social distancing would also need to be ensured through adequate distance between workers, adequate gaps between shifts, staggering the lunch break of staff and so on. 

Stipulations regarding shops and markets
Local authorities should ensure that shops and markets open with staggered timings, so as to ensure social distancing.   All shops shall also have to ensure six feet distance (“2 gaz ki doori”) among customers and also not allow more than five persons at one time.

Night curfew
Night curfew shall continue to remain in force on the movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, between 7 pm and 7 am.

Protection for Vulnerable Persons
Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, shall stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

All activities to be permitted other than the limited number of those that are prohibited or restricted
All other activities will be permitted except those which are specifically prohibited under these guidelines. However, in containment zones, only essential activities shall be allowed, as mentioned earlier.

States to decide on activities within various Zones
States/ UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain other activities in the various zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary.

Use of Aarogya Setu
The Aarogya Setu mobile application is a powerful tool built by the central government to facilitate quick identification of persons infected by COVID-19, or at risk of being infected, thus acting as a shield for individuals and the community.  With a view to ensure safety in offices and work places, employers on best effort basis should ensure that the application is installed by all employees having compatible mobile phones. 

District authorities have been asked to advise individuals to install the Aarogya Setu application on compatible mobile phones and regularly update their health status on the app.  This will facilitate timely provision of medical attention to those individuals who are at risk. State/ UT Governments shall continue to strictly enforce the lockdown guidelines and they shall not dilute these guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, in any manner.

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