Many states announce easing of COVID curbs

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A worker wearing protective gear as a preventive measure against COVID-19 cleans the floor of a mall in New Delhi on Sunday after authorities announced the easing of lockdown in the national capital.

New Delhi/Chandigarh/Mumbai: In the fight against COVID-19, Haryana and Sikkim are the latest to extend lockdown from Monday but have eased curbs like several other states including Maharashtra that have announced cautious steps towards restarting or scaling up activities after over a month following a decline in COVID cases.

“The state government is taking a calculated risk and hence people have to take care of themselves. Nothing is going to be eased immediately,” Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said ahead of the start of the ‘five-tier’ unlock process based on weekly positivity rate and occupancy of oxygen beds in districts.

Thackeray emphasised that the local administration will take decisions on whether to ease restrictions and further tighten them.

In Mumbai, the country’s financial capital, restaurants, shops selling non-essential items and public places are set to reopen from Monday but malls, theatres and multiplexes will continue to remain shut, as the metropolis has been categorised under level 3 of the ‘unlock’ plan.

However, the national capital, which began the unlock exercise from May 31 will see further easing of restrictions from Monday, with the government allowing resumption of metro services at 50 per cent capacity and reopening of markets and malls on an odd-even basis.

Officials said teams of police and district administration have been deployed across the city to enforce COVID-appropriate behaviour. Possible super-spreader areas like prominent markets, malls and liquor stores that attract large crowds have been marked for strict compliance with precautions like the use of face masks and social distancing.

In June, several states and Union territories have begun easing the lockdown restrictions, which they first started imposing in mid-April as the second COVID wave hit the country, but the Centre has cautioned that the unlock process has to be slow and that COVID-appropriate behaviour needs to be strictly followed.

“Whatever we know from possible scenarios presented by eminent people, it (COVID) will decline and June will be much much more better but the concerns are when we open up, how do we behave because the virus has not gone anywhere,” NITI Aayog member (Health) V K Paul had said last week.

The Uttar Pradesh government also extended the relaxations in the coronavirus curfew to four more districts on Sunday. With this, curbs have been eased in 71 districts where shops and markets outside containment zones will be allowed to open for five days a week.

While the count of active cases has fallen below the 600-mark in these districts, a watch is being kept on the remaining four districts of Lucknow, Gorakhpur, Meerut and Saharanpur, and a decision on these districts may be taken on Tuesday, an official statement said

The Haryana government said it was extending the lockdown, clamped in the state on May 3, till June 14 as a preventive and precautionary measure though the COVID positivity rate and the number of new COVID positive cases have declined.

While further relaxations regarding the opening of shops and shopping malls have been given, religious places are also allowed to open now with 21 people at a time. Corporate offices can have 50 per cent attendance after adopting social distancing norms and gatherings of up to 21 people are allowed at weddings, funerals and cremations from the earlier 11.

The Sikkim government, while announcing the statewide lockdown for one more week till June 14, also allowed relaxation for shops selling groceries and hardware.

Even as the COVID situation has relatively improved in most of the northern and western states, southern and eastern parts of the country are still reporting a high number of cases.

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin had announced the extension of the lockdown by a week till June 14 with some easing of restrictions from Monday except in 11 districts where the number of new cases reported was still high.

Earlier, neighbouring Karnataka had extended the lockdown till June 14. Himachal Pradesh and Goa had also extended the ‘corona curfew’ till June 14 with some easing of curbs.

Ladakh on Sunday announced a gradual unlocking after a month-long ‘corona curfew’ in the Union territory.

India reported 1,14,460 new coronavirus infections, the lowest in 60 days, while the daily positivity rate further dropped to 5.62 per cent, according to the Union Health Ministry data updated on Sunday. With the fresh cases, the total tally of coronavirus cases in the country climbed to 2,88,09,339.

The COVID-19 death toll climbed to 3,46,759 with 2,677 daily deaths, the lowest in 42 days, while the active cases dropped below 15 lakh, the data updated at 8 am showed

India had reported more than 88.82 lakh coronavirus infections in May alone during the raging second wave of COVID-19, accounting for 31.67 per cent of the over 2.8 crore cases reported in the country so far and making it the worst month of the pandemic.

The month of May also saw 1,17,247 fatalities due to the disease, which is around 35.63 per cent of the total 3,29,100 deaths recorded so far. The daily cases peaked on May 7 when the country registered 4,14,188 infections in a span of 24 hours, while daily deaths were the highest on May 19 with India reporting 4,529 fatalities due to COVID-19. The active cases had peaked on May 10 at 37,45,237.