Local train and Metro rail services will continue to remain suspended in Maharashtra for the time being. Also, large public gatherings and congregations will be barred.
Two days after the Union government announced major relaxations in Unlock 4.0, Maharashtra — the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic — has decided against the resumption of suburban rail services for the general public and Metro rail services for now.
The August 29 Union Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines had asked states to allow resumption of Metro rail services “in a graded manner” from September 7. The Railways had also indicated that it was ready to resume suburban rail operations for the Mumbai Metropolitan Area if the state government requested for it.
Sources said Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray is worried that the resumption of these public transportation services in a big way would lead to formation of new mobile Covid-19 hotspots.
As anticipated, Maharashtra’s new guidelines, signed in by Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar, opened the doors for more people to attend offices. From September 2, private offices across the state will be permitted to operate with 30 per cent strength as against the 10 per cent allowed previously.
In government offices, senior officials (class A and class B) will be required to be present in offices on all working days, while the attendance of lower-level staffers in MMR and the rest of the state will be 30 per cent and 50 per cent, respectively.
Anticipating more people outdoors due to the relaxations, the government has permitted “passenger movement by private buses and mini buses for which the transport department will issue independent SOPs”.
Acting on the Centre’s directive, the government has also lifted all curbs on inter-district travel. “There shall be no restrictions on inter-district movement of persons or goods, including those for cross border land trade. No separate permission, approval or e-permit will be required for vehicles,” Kumar wrote.
Further, taxi and cars can now carry three passengers plus the driver instead of the earlier two passengers and driver.
Offices have been asked to run elaborate sensitisation programmes on measures that employees should take after returning home from work to avoid a spread of infection among family members.
“All offices will have to appoint a full-time vigilance office to ensure social distancing norms and other Covid-19 precautionary norms were obeyed,” the order stated.
Amid a growing demand for the reopening of restaurants, gymnasiums and temples, the state for now has decided against it. But it has permitted hotels and lodges, first reopened on July 6 with 33 per cent capacity, to now run at full capacity, while stating that “new SOPs listing additional precautions to be taken” will be formulated.
While the Centre’s guidelines state that social, academic, political, sports, cultural and religious functions can be held with a maximum 100 people from September 21, the state order said: “Large public gatherings/congregations will continue to remain prohibited.”
The Centre has also permitted students of classes IX to XII to visit schools “on a voluntary basis” to clear doubts with teachers, but the state has ruled that “school and college campuses, coaching classes will remain close till September 30 with only online or distance learning being promoted”.
Sources said while the school education department has been pushing for the resumption of physical classes “on a voluntary basis” for senior students, Uddhav is wary.
Moreover, while the Centre had said no lockdown would be imposed outside containment zones without its permission, Maharashtra has extended the lockdown in the entire state till September 30.
The state has also permitted civic commissioners and district collectors to “enforce certain measures and necessary restrictions in affected areas on permitted non-essential activities and the movement of persons with the prior written approval of the chief secretary”.
Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres and multiplexes, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls will continue to remain closed.
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