Two days before the Nationwide Coronavirus Lockdown was to expire, the Union Home Ministry issued a notification today which said that the lockdown will be further extended for two weeks. The lockdown was first imposed from 25th March to 14th April, which was later extended till 3rd May. Now the lockdown will continue till 17th May, as per the new order of the union govt, but the extended lockdown has large number of relaxations. Although the lockdown will continue for two weeks, lots of activities will be allowed, and the country will partially reopen from 4th May.
While the existing lockdown is uniform across the nation, barring few relaxations granted in last week, the extended lockdown from 4th May will vary in different areas depending on the zones that the places fall into. Different districts in the country has been classified as red zone, orange zone and green zone. While most restrictions will go away in green zone districts, the lockdown will continue in red zones, while orange zones will see limited relaxations.
The zone definitions have also undergone some changes, which were announced yesterday. Green Zones will be districts with either zero confirmed cases till date, or no confirmed case in the last 21 days. Red Zones will depend on the total number of active cases, doubling rate of confirmed cases, extent of testing and surveillance feedback from the districts. While those districts which are neither classified as red not green will be classified as orange zones. The classification of districts as red, orange or green zone will be notified by the Union Health Ministry on a weekly basis, or as and when needed. The states and union territories can include upgrade additional districts to red or orange zones, but they can’t lower the classification of districts.
Withing red and orange zones, the areas with high risk of spread of the Coronavirus infection will be classified as containment zones. The containment areas would be defined by respective District Administrations, taking into account the total number of active cases, their geographical spread, and the need to have well demarcated perimeters from the enforcement point of view.
For those districts having municipal corporations, they will be classified into two zones, one for the area under the corporation, and the other for the area outside it. If the area outside the municipal region sees no positive coronavirus cases in 21 days, it will be classified one stage below the municipal area. This means, if the municipal area is classified as orange zone, the area outside the municipal corporation in the district will be green zone if it had no positive cases in 21 days.
Here are the zone wise restrictions as per the Home Ministry order:
Despite the zone wise relaxations, some restrictions will continue all over the country. Air, rail, metro and inter-state movement by road will remain prohibited. Schools, Colleges and other educational, coaching and training institutions also can’t resume. Hospitality services including hotels and restaurants will remain closed, along with places of large public gatherings like cinema halls, malls, gymnasiums, sports complexes etc. Social, political, cultural and other kinds of gatherings, and, religious places / places of worship will also remain prohibited for public. But movement by air, train and road will be allowed for select purposes permitted by the MHA.
In all zones, there will be restrictions on movement of people from 7 pm to 7 am for all non-essential purposes. Local authorities will issue orders in this regard under respective provisions like section 144 of IPC. Moreover, in all zones, persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, have been asked stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health 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; however, these will not be permitted within the Containment Zones.
Wearing masks has been made compulsory in all public places and workplaces. All places will have to ensure social distancing, regardless of the zone. Marriages will be allowed but the number of guests can’t be 50. Similar last rites of people can’t have more than 20 people. Spitting in public places will be punishable offence across the country, for which respective states will issue directives.
Use of Aarogya Setu will have to be made compulsory for employees of both private and public organisations, and large physical meetings will have to be avoided.
Apart from restrictions applicable to the whole country, red zones will have additional restrictions. These are plying of cycle rickshaws and auto-rickshaws, running of taxis and cab aggregators, intra-district and inter-district plying of buses, and, barbershops, spas and saloons. Movement of people using private vehicles will also be regulated in red zones. In cars maximum, 2 persons will be allowed beside the driver, and pillion riding will not be permitted on two-wheelers.
But the red zones will have significant relaxations compared to current lockdown. Construction activities are allowed in urban areas in red zones if the workers are available on the site, movement of workers from other places will not be permitted. Some industrial activities also have been permitted, which are manufacturing units of essential goods, including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, including their raw materials and intermediaries. IT hardware and jute industry also have been allowed to operate, along with packaging material manufacturing. Special Economic Zones (SEZs), Export Oriented Units (EOUs), industrial estates and industrial townships with access control also have been permitted to operate.
In red zones, shops for non-essential goods in malls, markets and market complexes will not be allowed. But all standalone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops located in residential complexes will be allowed to open in urban areas, for both essential and non-essential goods. E-commerce activities in red zones will be allowed for only essential items.
Private sector offices will be allowed to operate with 33% employee attendance. In govt offices, for officers in deputy secretary and above rank, everyone will attend, for the rest 33% of the staff will attend office. However, departments related to health, police, fire service, disaster management etc will function with full strength.
All industrial activities will be allowed in rural areas in red zones, including MNREGA works, food-processing units and brick-kilns. All shops in rural areas can open except shopping malls in red zones. All agricultural, animal husbandry, plantation activities will be allowed. Banks, financial services and public utilities will also operate in red zones, including courier and postal services. 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 persons will also be allowed, except restricted activities like saloons.
Orangs zones will have all the relaxations given in red zones, with some additional relaxations. Taxis and cab aggregators like Ola and Uber will be allowed to operate in orange zone areas, but they can have maximum of 2 passengers only. Pillion driving will be allowed on two-wheelers. Inter-district travel will be restricted to permitted purposes only.
Green zones will have the maximum relaxations. Except the activities prohibited nationally, all other activities will resume in green zone areas. Which means apart from inter-state movement and places of large public gatherings, all other places and activities will be allowed. But there is a restriction on buses, as buses can operate with upto 50% seating capacity, and bus depots can also operate with 50% capacity.
The home ministry also announced that liquor and paan shops will be allowed to operate in green and orange zones and rural areas, but more than 5 persons can’t be present at a time at a shop, and everyone will have to maintain distance of six feet.
The home ministry clarified that all goods movement will be allowed throughout the country, and no separate passes will be needed for that. All other activities which are not specifically prohibited will be allowed. But state govts may restrict additional activities if they feel the need.
No separate permission will be required for the activities for which permissions were already obtained during the ongoing lockdown.