With Bengaluru (Urban) being categorised as a red zone district by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), relaxation in restrictions, coming into force from May 4, will be limited to a minimum in the city when compared to other districts which have been categorised as orange and green zones.
However, given the track record of the city in controlling the spread of COVID-19 , the city’s administration thinks more relaxations are called for. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) will now write to the MHA on the matter. “Bengaluru has performed better than most cities and the spread of the virus is contained to small geographic areas when compared to other cities,” said civic commissioner B.H. Anil Kumar.
The city has recorded the lowest number of COVID-19 cases among all the major metro cities, and even lower than several Tier 2 cities in the country. “We suggested to the Chief Secretary that zoning of areas into red, orange and green zones be done not at the district level, but at the ward level. He has asked us to write to the Union government,” Mr. Kumar told The Hindu . “We are working at the ward level and can identify particular wards as red, orange, and green zones.”
If the BBMP has its way, while 22 wards with containment zones will be categorised as red zones, the remaining 176 will fall under orange or green zones. While cab services are permitted in orange zones, buses can begin to ply at 50% occupancy rate in green zones. “If the categorisation is at the ward level instead of the district level, we can restart some public transport and hasten our way back to normalcy,” Mr. Kumar said.
However, for all practical purposes, the MHA guidelines categorising the entire district as a red zone remain for now. All forms of public transport, including autorickshaws and cabs, will continue to be off the road across the city. Movement of only those private vehicles needed for permitted purposes will be allowed, that too having police passes.
While the process of returning seized vehicles has begun, new passes will also be issued, said City Police Commissioner Bhaskar Rao. Only two occupants, apart from the driver, are allowed in a car. No pillion rider will be allowed on a bike.
However, areas with no contaminant zones will see some relaxation of norms and can breathe easy. Private firms, industry units and large in-situ construction projects can restart operations, albeit following the social distancing norms. This is expected to slowly begin the process of kick-starting the economy.
All private offices can now begin functioning with 33% staff strength. Special Economic Zones, export-oriented units, industrial estates, and all essential industries can begin work with staggered shifts. Some of these relaxations were already announced by Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa a week ago, and are now part of the MHA guidelines as well.
The civic body began enforcing the wearing of masks in the city from Saturday. Civic authorities booked 86 cases and collected ₹51,700 in penalty. Marshals levying penalty, in many cases, collected fines less than the ₹1,000 stipulated by the civic commissioner. Putting this down to lack of awareness, a senior civic official said the civic body would enforce a fine of ₹1,000 for the first offence and ₹2,000 for every subsequent offence from Sunday. The BBMP has clarified that any cloth can be used to cover the mouth and nose and it need not be a mask.