New COVID-19 guidelines emphasise ‘unlocking’ India

New coronavirus guidelines emphasise ‘unlocking’ India, not ‘lockdown’

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The Centre has preferred not to emphasise the term “lockdown” in its new COVID-19 guidelines, which is more of a graded exit plan from the restrictions imposed since March 25 to contain the pandemic.

The guidelines have been described as a plan for 'Phased Reopening (Unlock 1)' and it came after Home Minister Amit Shah held talks with chief ministers and two rounds of discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

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According to the order issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), the National Disaster Management Authority has directed Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla "to issue an order to extend the lockdown in containment zones up to June 30 and to reopen prohibited activities in a phased manner in areas outside containment zones".

The new guidelines practically opens up the country in June, except for educational institutions, international air travel, metro rail services and entertainment avenues like cinema halls. The MHA has kept in mind the demands from various states to open shopping malls and religious places.

While the government will take a call on the functioning of educational institutions in July, no timeline has been fixed for reopening of normal international air travel and metro rail services.

Officials expect a decision on international air travel to come in July-end or August but would hugely depend on the COVID-19 situation in other countries, especially in Europe and the United States. They indicate that it would also be grade-wise opening as the country is still not prepared to allow unrestricted entry of passengers from abroad.

According to the guidelines, people must maintain a minimum distance of six feet in public places while wearing of face masks will be compulsory in public places, workplaces and during transport.

Though all shops will be allowed to open from June 8, no more than five persons would be allowed inside a shop at one time.

With the opening of shopping malls, one of the most crowded places, it remains to be seen how this will be implemented. States will be waiting for the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare for this.

Large gatherings are also banned but the new guidelines allow the opening of barber shops, salons and spas, which were prohibited till May 31. While offices are allowed to function, the guidelines reiterate that work from home should be encouraged as far as possible.

Staggered working and business hours have been re-emphasised as per the National COVID-19 Management. As earlier, marriages can have a maximum of 50 guests, while funerals should not exceed 20 people.

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