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Coronavirus | Lockdown extended till May 17; curbs stay on public transport

Police request motorists with folded hands to not enter roads leading to red zone areas in Visakhapatnam on May 1, 2020.   | Photo Credit: K.R. Deepak

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Friday issued new guidelines allowing considerable relaxations across red, orange and green zones, based on the evidence of COVID-19 infection, even though it extended the countrywide lockdown till May 17. 

The lockdown, imposed first on March 24 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, was to end on May 3. However, it has been extended by another two weeks by the MHA.

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The MHA asked local authorities to ensure 100% coverage of the Aarogya Setu app among the residents in the containment zones. The National Directive for COVID-19 management said use of the Aarogya Setu application is to be mandatory for all employees, both private and public and “it should be the responsibility of the head of organisation to ensure 100% coverage of this App among the employees”. 

In green zones, buses can operate with up to 50% seating capacity and bus depots can operate with up to 50% capacity, the MHA said.

In orange zones, taxis and cab aggregators will be permitted to ply with only one passenger. Inter-district movement of vehicles will be allowed in orange zones for permitted activities and cars could have maximum two passengers besides the driver, and pillion riding will be allowed on two-wheelers.

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In red zones, other than the containment zones, private cars will be allowed only for permitted activities with a maximum of two persons other than the driver but no pillion riders in two-wheelers. Irrespective of zones, however, all forms of other public transport — air, rail, metro and inter-State movement by road — will remain suspended during the extended lockdown except those allowed in select cases.

The National Directive for COVID-19 management said shops selling liquor, gutkha, and tobacco will be allowed to open in orange, green zones and rural areas by maintaining six-feet distance and ensuring no more than five persons are present at a time. 

Schools, colleges, hotels and restaurants, cinema halls, malls, gymnasiums and all kinds of social, political, cultural, religious gatherings remain prohibited. 

The MHA said movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, shall remain strictly prohibited between 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. in all zones. It asked local authorities to issue prohibitory orders [curfew] under Section 144 of CrPC and ensure strict compliance.

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“In all zones, 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,” MHA said.

All private offices can operate with up to 33% strength as per requirement, with the remaining persons working from home. Wearing of face masks and sanitization of workplace is compulsory.

All government offices shall function with senior officers of the level of Deputy Secretary and above at full strength, and the remaining staff attending up to 33% as per requirement, MHA said.

Industrial establishments in urban areas such as Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Export Oriented Units (EOUs), industrial estates and industrial townships with access control have been permitted.

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The other industrial activities permitted are manufacturing units of essential goods, including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw material and intermediates; production units, which require continuous process, and their supply chain; manufacturing of IT hardware; jute industry with staggered shifts and social distancing; and, manufacturing units of packaging material, MHA said.

Construction activities in urban areas have been limited to in-situ construction (where workers are available on site and no workers are required to be brought in from outside) and construction of renewable energy projects. 

“Shops in urban areas, for non-essential goods, are not allowed in malls, markets and market complexes. However, all standalone (single) shops, neighborhood (colony) shops and shops in residential complexes are permitted to remain open in urban areas, without any distinction of essential and non-essential,” MHA said.

The MHA guidelines on April 25 said that all restaurants, salons and barber shops would remain closed as they “render services” and relaxation given under lockdown restrictions pertain only to shops selling items.

E-commerce activities, in the Red Zones, are permitted only in respect of essential goods.

Download The Hindu’s multi-language e-book on essential COVID-19 information

Out-Patient Departments (OPDs) and medical clinics shall be permitted to operate in Red, Orange and Green Zones, with social distancing norms and other safety precautions; however, these will not be permitted within the containment zones, MHA said.

The directives on COVID-19 management said that maximum number of guests at weddings should not exceed 50 and for funerals the gathering has been capped at 20 persons. 

Spitting in public places is a punishable offence and wearing of face mask in all public spaces is compulsory.

The extension of lockdown was issued under an order of the Disaster Management Act, 2005. 

The first set of such guidelines to be followed by States for “containment of COVID-19 epidemic” in the country was issued on March 24 under the DM Act, 2005, invoked for the first time in the country. 

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Printable version | Oct 29, 2020 5:57:01 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coronavirus-mha-extends-lockdown-for-another-two-weeks-effective-may-4/article31482647.ece

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