The government on Saturday announced a three-phased “unlocking” of India from COVID-19 restrictions with the reopening of religious places, hotels and malls from June 8 while keeping containment zones under strict Lockdown 5.0 till next month-end.
A decision on reopening educational institutions will be taken in July while a call on international air travel and opening up of metro services and cinema halls will be taken later after an “assessment of the situation”.
With Lockdown 4.0 coming to end on Sunday, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has extended restrictions till June 30, mainly in containment zones, but with a graded exit plan that also allows inter-state and intra-state movement of people without restrictions.
Large gatherings continue to be banned while wearing of masks and maintaining social distance in public places will remain in place.
India on Sunday will be completing 68 days in COVID-19 lockdown, which was first announced on March 24 night and relaxed over the past two months.
Lockdown 4.0, which came into effect on May 18, had given considerable relaxations.
In the first phase of the relaxations in Lockdown 5.0, according to the ‘Guidelines for Phased Reopening (Unlock-1)’ that is part of the lockdown order, religious places like temples, churches and mosques, hotels restaurants and other hospitality services and shopping malls will be allowed to function from June 8.
The second phase could see educational institutions opening up in July “after consultations” between the Centre and the states. “State governments and Union Territory administrations may hold consultations at the institution level with parents and other stakeholders. Based on the feedback, a decision on reopening of these institutions will be taken in the month of July,” the guidelines said. For both phase 1 and phase 2 exit strategy, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will issue Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in consultation with states and other stakeholders.
In phase 3, the schedule for restarting international air travel, metro services, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres and bars will be taken after an “assessment of the situation”. However, no specific timetable has been given for this.
Night curfew will continue across the country during Lockdown 5.0 but the government has tweaked its timing to 9 pm to 5 am. Earlier, the night curfew was between 7 pm to 7 am and several states had raised objections over the timings.
Containment zones will continue to be fortresses and only essential activities will be allowed. The guidelines also ask the states to identify buffer zones outside the containment zones, where new cases are more likely to occur and restrictions should be put in place by district authorities.
While the Centre is allowing considerable relaxations, it has allowed the states to prohibit activities outside containment zones or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary based on their assessment.
The Centre has also allowed inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods and there is no need for any special permission or e-pass for such movements. Goods movement will also continue to be unrestricted.
However, states could regulate the movement of people based on “reasons of public health and its assessment of the situation” but it should give wide publicity in advance regarding the restrictions and procedures to be followed.
The new guidelines have also omitted the mandatory clause on the movement of people above 65 years, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below 10 years but still “advised” them to stay indoors, except for essential and health purposes.