New Delhi: With the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus scheduled to end on Sunday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued revised guidelines. The ministry announced that the lockdown will now only be extended in containment zones, until the end of June. States and union territories will now be allowed to re-open prohibited activities outside the containment zones in a phased manner.
From June 8, when the phased reopening will begin, religious places and places of worship will be opened, along with hotels, restaurants, other hospitality services and malls. The health ministry will issue the standard operating procedures (SOPs) for these activities, the home ministry said.
The order also said that schools, colleges and educational/ coaching and training institutions may be reopened after consultation with stakeholders, but not before July. The home ministry said that this decision will be taken by the state governments and UTs based on feedback from parents and other stakeholders.
The third phase of re-opening will include the resumption of international air travel, metro rail services, along with the reopening of cinema halls, gyms, bars and other services. Social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural and religious functions and other large gathering will also be reopened during this phase, the dates for which will be decided based on “the assessment of the situation”.
The timings of night curfew have also be revised to between 9 pm and 5 am, from the previous timings of 7 pm to 7 am.
The guidelines ask people everywhere to continue practising precautionary and safety measures such as using a face mask, maintaining social distance, avoiding large gatherings and avoiding spitting in public places.
Lockdown limited to containment zones
In containment zones, where the lockdown will continue until June 30, only essential activities will be allowed. Containment zones will be demarcated by district authorities, the MHA said, after taking into consideration the health ministry’s guidelines.
Within containment zones, there should be strict contact tracing, the guidelines say, along with house-to-house surveillance and other clinical interventions. The authorities should also ensure that there is strict perimeter control within the containment zones.
State and UTs will also be allowed to identify buffer zones outside the containment zones, if they feel new cases are more likely to occur there. Within these buffer zones, district authorities may impose restrictions they consider necessary.
Even outside containment zones, states and UTs may prohibit activities or impose restrictions based on their assessment of the situation.
No restriction on movement of people
The order also says that all restrictions on inter or intra-state movement of people have been lifted. No special permission will be required for people to travel. However, if some state governments decide to impose restrictions, they will need to give “wide publicity” in advance regarding the restrictions to be placed and the related procedure to be followed.
As with the previous lockdown, the MHA has asked people who fall under vulnerable categories – those aged above 65, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 – to prefer staying at home, except for essential and health purposes.
The usage of Aarogya Setu contact tracing app will also be encouraged but is not mandatory. Employers have been asked to make ‘best efforts’ to ensure that all employees have the app.