Malls, Hotels, Religious Shrines to Open First in Phased Lockdown Exit, Curbs Stay in Containment Zones

The central government on Saturday extended the nationwide lockdown for containment zones with high number of coronavirus cases till June 30 and announced the graded lifting of restrictions for the rest of the country as it greatly trimmed the number of activities prohibited.

The Centre has given more powers to states and union territories to ascertain and define a containment zone. Delhi currently has 102 of them.

Unveiling the phased reopening, the fresh guidelines said activities at religious places, opening of hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services and shopping malls will start from June 8.

The Home Ministry asked the Union Health Ministry to issue standard operating procedures for these sectors after consulting other ministries, departments and other stakeholders to ensure social distancing and to contain the spread of COVID-19.

In the second phase, opening of educational institutions including schools and colleges will be undertaken in July in consultation with states and union territories, who in the meantime, shall hold meetings at the institution level with parents and other stakeholders.

"Based on the feedback, a decision on the re-opening of these institutions will be taken in the month of July, 2020," the guidelines said and added that the health ministry will prepare SOPs for these institutions.

Limited number of activities including international air travel, metro rail, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls shall remain suspended for the time being.

Social, political, sports, entertainment, cultural and other large congregations including religious shall also remain suspended, the order said, adding that a decision on these would be taken in third phase after making an assessment of the situation.

The home ministry said within the containment zones, strict perimeter control shall be maintained and only essential activities will be allowed. The ministry also reiterated that there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods and no additional permission required for such travels.

"However, if a state or UT, based on reasons of public health and its assessment of the situation, proposes to regulate movement of persons, it will give wide publicity in advance regarding the restrictions to be placed on such movement, and the related procedures to be followed," it said.

The ministry also made it clear that movement of passenger trains and 'Shramik specials' meant to ferry migrant workers, domestic air travel and return of Indian nationals stranded outside the country will continue to be regulated as per the standard operating procedure.

The government also eased night curfew which shall now remain in force from 9 PM to 5 AM during which movement of individuals and all non-essential activities will not be allowed. Earlier, the timing was from 7 PM to 7 AM.

The ministry advised persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

Issuing additional directives, the fresh guidelines advocated 'Work from Home' (WfH) as far as possible besides staggering of work hours.

The nationwide curbs were first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 for 21 days in a bid to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The lockdown was first extended till May 3 and then again till May 17. It was further extended till May 31 and now has been extended in containment zones till June 30.

The government from the beginning allowed opening of shops selling essential commodities and in phases allowed markets and shops of non-essential items to function in non-containment zones.

The government has also allowed limited operations of train and domestic flights during the last fortnight. The Indian Railways is also running special trains since May 1 for transportation of migrant workers from different parts of the country to their native states.

The government is also bringing back stranded Indians from abroad through air and sea under the Vande Bharat Mission.