Centre extends lockdown till May 31



New Delhi

India on Sunday extended the coronavirus lockdown for two more weeks with the fourth phase providing more relaxations outside the containment zones including inter-state movement of buses with mutual consent of states that is expected to be of immediate relief for thousands of migrant workers on the roads.

Easing more curbs to step up economic activity, the new guidelines for lockdown 4.0 unveiled by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) till May 31 allowed shops and markets including barber shops, salons and spas except those in malls to open with staggered timings. E-commerce companies were also permitted to deliver all goods, including those considered non-essential.

However, the night curfew will remain which meant that all non-essential travel will remain prohibited between 7 pm and 7 am and authorities will ensure strict compliance, the MHA said.

As the country recorded the highest single day spike of 4,987 new cases, the states were allowed to demarcate the red, green and orange zones depending upon COVID-19 case load, a demand made by chief ministers of several states and Union territories. The MHA said the same should be done after taking into consideration parameters outlined by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, malls, swimming pools, gyms will continue to remain shut till May 31. All social, political, religious functions and places of worship will also be closed till that date.

The guidelines for lockdown 4.0 were announced shortly after the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) ordered that lockdown measures needed to be implemented for a further period of 14 days in the country to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Hours before the order was given, the governments in the worst affected states of Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu announced they are extending the lockdown till May 31. Punjab and Mizoram had earlier announced similar measure.

Listing the dos and don’ts during the lockdown 4.0 that is in force in the country since March 25 to cut the chain of COVID-19 transmission, the MHA allowed inter-state and intra-state movements of passenger vehicles and buses from areas other than the containment zones. However, the guidelines made it clear that bus services will be allowed with mutual consent of states and union territories involved.

The Centre has also left it to the states to decide on the operation of taxis and auto rickshaws. It said Metro rail services, schools, colleges will remain closed till May-end. Also, all regular domestic, international air travel of passengers except domestic air ambulance and evacuation flights will remain prohibited during this period.

The Centre has opened sports complexes and stadia but banned entry of spectators. Taking a view of limited air services opened for bringing stranded Indians home and taking people through trains, it allowed running of canteens at airports, bus depots and railway stations. Restaurants shall be also allowed to operate their kitchen for home delivery of food items.

The country recorded the highest single day spike of 4,987 new cases as the total climbed to 90,927 and also 120 more fatalities to take the death toll to 2,872, according to the Union Health Ministry. The previous highest single day increase was on May 11 when 4,213 cases were reported.

India is now in the 11th position in the overall number of cases among countries with the US (nearly 15 lakh cases) topping the tally, according to the Johns Hopkins University data.