As lockdown 4.0 ends, cautious states ease several restrictions
Several states, including those worst hit by the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu, announced conditional easing of curbs on Sunday, a day after the central government unveiled the first of a three-phase plan to lift lockdown restrictions in a graded manner.
While most states allowed the resumption of public transport and inter-state travel from Monday, many remained undecided on reopening hotels, restaurants and places of worship — which, according to the central guidelines, can be opened from June 8. States such as Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala were yet to announce the new norms. Delhi is expected to release its guidelines on Monday.
Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and Rajasthan — among the top five states with the most Covid-19 cases — issued state-specific guidelines on withdrawing several restrictions. Apart from them, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Punjab and Karnataka too announced their own set of rules effective Monday.
The Maharashtra government extended till June 30 the lockdown in the state, but announced phase-wise resumption of activities under its “Mission Begin Again” plan. All markets and shops – but not malls – can reopen from June 5 on an odd-even basis, which means half of the shops in an area will open on every alternate day to avoid crowding.
In the western state, only 10-15% of the staff can work from office beginning June 8 in red zones. Intra-district bus travel will resume with 50% passenger capacity, but not inter-district bus travel. Additionally, outdoor physical activities such as morning walks and cycling will be permitted in public areas from June 3.
These relaxations will be applicable in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which includes Mumbai, and in Pune, Aurangabad, Nashik and Nagpur. However, places of worship won’t be allowed in the state. As per the Centre’s guidelines, religious places are allowed to open from June 8. However, the Union home ministry’s guidelines also said there will be no relaxations for containment zones.
Chief minister Uddhav Thackeray struck a word of caution in his televised address to state residents, saying people should tread cautiously while beginning the “new life”. “Even as we begin afresh, we have to take cautious steps,” he said.
In Gujarat, all shops and businesses outside containment zones can reopen on alternate days, while most restrictions on movement have been lifted — four-wheelers with six seats can carry three passengers, pillion riders allowed on two-wheelers and state transport buses can operate with 60% capacity.
Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami announced partial resumption of public transport such as a reduced fleet of buses from Monday, barring in Chennai and some adjoining districts with high number of Covid-19 cases. The ban on places of worship and inter-state bus transport will remain. E-pass will be compulsory for inter-state travel, he added.
The Uttar Pradesh government permitted inter-state travel, but said people from hotspot areas/containment zones in Delhi will not be allowed to travel to Noida and Ghaziabad. Later, the Noida administration said strict border curbs will continue to remain in place.
In Rajasthan, all government and private offices can work with full capacity from Monday, but private workplaces should encourage working from home to the “extent possible”. Inter- and intra-state movement was also allowed, but only on approved routes, an official notification said.
While extending the lockdown in Telangana till June 30, the state government announced the lifting of restrictions on interstate transport and travel. The government also decided to implement the guidelines issued by the Centre with regard to relaxations t outside the containment zones with effect from June 8.
A decision to this effect was taken by chief minister K Chandrasekhar Rao after holding discussions with senior officials, including chief secretary Somesh Kumar and director general of police M Mahender Reddy.
Karnataka, too, extended the lockdown on Sunday, but with a broad array of relaxations for areas outside containment zones even as the state registered the single biggest day jump in Covid-19 positive cases. Starting June 8, in line with the home ministry suggestions, the state has decided to open religious places. It also has decided to reopen hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services as well as shopping malls. As recommended by the Centre, there will be a curfew from 9 pm to 5 am daily with all non-essential movement restricted.
Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh ordered the opening of liquor and barber shops, beauty parlours, and spas from Monday in non-containment zones. He directed the health and transport departments to come out with detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for permitted activities and movement between June 1 and June 30.