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Modi govt extends lockdown for two more weeks, but this time with some relaxations

Buses and cabs can ply, agricultural work permitted and liquor shops can open, but everything depends on zone — green or orange. No relaxations allowed in containment areas.

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New Delhi: The Narendra Modi government Friday extended the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown by another two weeks from 4 May, but this time with considerable relaxation.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order late evening to extend the lockdown and also laid down certain guidelines to regulate different activities during this period.

According to the order, sale of liquor, paan, gutka has been permitted in green and orange zones but with strict orders to maintain six-feet distance between shop owners and buyers, and not more than five people will be allowed in these shops.

Taxis and buses have been allowed to operate with limited capacity. For buses, they can operate only in green zones with 50 per cent capacity. Taxis, with two passengers and the driver, can operate in both green and orange zones.

Wearing of face cover has been made mandatory in all public places. 

None of the relaxations, however, are allowed in containment zones, the order stated.

While the green zones are districts with either zero confirmed cases so far or no confirmed case in the last 21 days, red zones are the hotspots where there are a number of active Covid-19 cases. Those districts, which are neither defined as red nor green, are classified as orange zones.

Containment zones, meanwhile, are areas where there is a significant risk of the spread of the Covid-19 infection, according to the MHA.

The classification of districts into red, green and orange zones will be shared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare with the states and union territories on a weekly basis, or earlier, the MHA statement said.

The decision to extend the lockdown, the MHA said, was taken after “a comprehensive review, and in view of the lockdown measures having led to significant gains in the Covid-19 situation in the country”.

Also read: Modi’s poorly planned lockdown won’t save us from coronavirus, but will kill economy

Classification of districts into red, orange, green zones

According to the MHA’s order, it was observed that due to higher population density within the municipal corporation (MC) areas in a particular district and consequent greater inter-mixing of people, the incidence of Covid-19 within the boundary of the MC(s) is higher than in the rest of the district.

Therefore, according to the new guidelines, such districts will now be classified into two zones — one zone for the area within the boundary of the MC(s) and another for the area falling outside the boundary of the MC(s).

“If the area outside the boundary of the MC(s) has reported no case for the last 21 days, it will be allowed to be classified as one stage lower than the overall classification of the district as either red or orange,” the MHA order said.

“Hence, this area will be classified as orange, in case the district is overall red; or as green, in case the district is overall orange,” according to the order.

This classification, the order said, will enable more economic and other activities in that area of the district, to resume.

A number of districts in the country have, within their boundaries, one or more municipal corporations.

The containment zones

According to the MHA’s order, the containment zones will be the ones, which are the “most sensitive areas of the country” due to the spread of Covid-19.

The containment areas will be defined by respective district administrations, considering the total number of active cases, their geographical spread and the need to have well demarcated perimetres from the enforcement point of view.

“These are areas where there is significant risk of spread of the infection,” MHA’s order said.

According to the order, these areas would have intensified surveillance protocols, with contact-tracing, house-to-house surveillance, home and institutional quarantining of people based on their risk assessment, and clinical management.

“Strict perimetre control would need to be ensured, so that there is no movement of people in and out of these zones, except for medical emergencies, and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services. No other activity is permitted within the containment zones,” the order said.

The local authorities have been asked to ensure 100 per cent coverage of the government’s Aarogya Setu app among the residents of the containment zones.

The Aarogya Setu app was designed by MyGovIndia with an objective to collect data on people’s location and cross-refer it with the Indian Council of Medical Research’s database of Covid-19 tests to warn a user if an infected person is in the vicinity.

Also read: India lost more jobs due to coronavirus lockdown than US did during Depression

No travel allowed, schools, colleges to remain shut

According to the new guidelines, some activities will remain prohibited throughout the country, irrespective of which zone they fall in.

This will include travel by air, rail, metro and inter-state movement by road. 

Schools, colleges and other educational and training, coaching institutes, hospitality services, including hotels and restaurants, places of large public gatherings, such as cinema halls, malls, gymnasiums, sports complexes, will remain closed.

Plying of cycle-rickshaws and auto-rickshaws, intra-district and inter-district plying of buses, and barber shops, spas and saloons will continue to remain shut.

Social, political, cultural, religious and other gatherings are prohibited.

Movement between 7 pm and 7 am barred

In order to ensure safety of people, movement of individuals for all non-essential activities, will be strictly prohibited between 7 pm and 7 am in all the three zones.

Local authorities have also been asked to issue orders under Section 144 (unlawful assembly) for this purpose, and ensure strict compliance.

Also, people above 65 years of age, those with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years across districts have been asked to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for medical purposes.

“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. But these will not be permitted within the containment zones,” the order stated.

Also read: Coronavirus lockdown has given us a blank slate. We can write a new world when it lifts

Manufacturing, construction allowed

Movement of individuals and vehicles is allowed only for permitted activities, with a maximum of 2 people (besides the driver) in four-wheeler vehicles, and with no pillion rider in case of two-wheelers, in all the three zones, barring containment zones.

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

Manufacturing units of essential goods, including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw materials and intermediates, production units, manufacturing of IT hardware, jute industry, and manufacturing units of packaging material have been allowed.

Construction activities in urban areas will only be permissible where workers are available on the site and no workers are required to be brought in from outside.

Shops in urban areas, for non-essential goods, are still not allowed in malls, markets and market complexes but all standalone shops, neighbourhood shops are permitted to remain open in urban areas, without any distinction of essential and non-essential categories. 

E-commerce activities in the red zones are permitted only in respect of essential goods. 

Private offices can now operate with upto 33 per cent strength based on the requirement, with the remaining staff working from home.

All government offices will function with senior officers of the level of deputy secretary and above at full strength, and the remaining staff attending upto 33 per cent according to requirement.

Agricultural, MNREGA works allowed

All industrial and construction activities in rural areas, including MNREGA work, food-processing units and brick-kilns are permitted in all the three zones.

All agriculture activities, too, including sowing, harvesting, procurement and marketing operations in the agricultural supply chain are permitted.  

“Animal husbandry activities are fully permitted, including inland and marine fisheries. All plantation activities are allowed, including their processing and marketing,” the order said.

All health services (including AYUSH) will also remain functional, including transport of medical personnel and patients through air ambulances. 

Banks, non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), insurance and capital market activities, and credit co-operative societies, too will remain operational.

Most of the commercial and private establishments have also been allowed in the red zones. These include print and electronic media, IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres, cold storage and warehousing services, private security and facility management services, and services provided by self-employed people, except for barbers and other salon services.

Buses with 50% capacity to ply in green zones

In the orange zones, taxis and cab aggregators will be permitted with one driver and two passengers only.

In green zones, buses can operate with upto 50 per cent seating capacity and bus depots can also operate with upto 50 per cent capacity.

Inter-district movement of individuals and vehicles will be allowed for permitted activities only. 

In the green zones, however, all activities are permitted except the limited number of activities, which are prohibited throughout the country.

Punishment for violation of lockdown

Anyone who refuses to comply with the directions of the government will be punished with either fine or imprisonment of one year or both, according to the MHA order.

Moreover, if non-compliance of orders leads to any death or imminent danger, then the person concerned can be convicted and sentenced for two years of imprisonment.

Also, if anyone knowingly makes a false claim to obtain any relief or benefits from the government, then he shall be imprisoned for two years on conviction.

In addition, if any person is found to be misappropriating money meant for relief work, he will be booked and on conviction be given two-year jail.

Also, if any officer refuses or withdraws himself from his duty at this time, unless he has a written permission by his seniors, he can be booked and imprisoned for upto two years.

Also read: Home ministry allows special trains to take stranded workers, tourists, students home


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