June 1, 2020 5:54:39 am
The Maharashtra government on Sunday announced the launch of ‘Mission Begin Again’ from June 3, a three-phase removal of restrictions and introducing relaxations to the now 11-week lockdown, even as it extended the lockdown itself until June 30. The plan does not apply to containment zones.
Activities allowed in the first phase are individual outdoor physical exercise like walking, running and jogging, but strictly in the neighbourhood. The guidelines emphasise cycling as a preferred exercise, as it ensures the practice of social distancing. Moreover, government and private offices are to function with 15 per cent and 10 per cent of their existing staff strength, respectively.
Home delivery of newspaper has been allowed to resume from June 7, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said in a live streamed address to the state on Sunday evening. He also said that final-year university exams will not be held and students will be marked on the aggregate of previous semesters. Film shootings are also set to resume. For all three phases, night curfew remains in place from 9 pm to 5 am.
Containment zones – there are 3,169 such zones in Maharashtra, including 684 in Mumbai, 177 in Thane and 65 in Pune – are not included in this planned graded opening.
The relaxations apply to every area outside these containment zones in the 19 red zones of the state, which essentially include the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and municipal corporation areas of Pune, Solapur, Aurangabad, Malegaon, Nasik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Akola, Amaravati and Nagpur.
In the first phase beginning June 3, as per the order issued by Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, the government has allowed individual physical activities like jogging, walking, running and cycling in public spaces, including at neighbourhood beaches, public and private playgrounds, gardens and promenades and other open spaces, between 5 am to 7 pm.
However, no group activity will be permitted. While encouraging cycling, the order stated that long distance travel within cities will not be permitted.
Also, the government has allowed plumbers, electricians and technicians as well as those working in auto garages and workshops to function with prior appointments. Further, it said that all government offices – expect those involved in emergency services – will function with 15 per cent staff or minimum of 15 employees.
In the second phase beginning June 5, all markets and shops – except malls and market complexes – are allowed to function on odd and even days between 9 am and 5 pm. While shops on one side of the road, lane and passage will open on odd days, those on the other side will open on even days. However, customers will not be allowed to try on clothes, and the exchange and return policy has been scrapped for now.
“People are advised to walk/use cycles for shopping and to use nearby/neighbourhood markets as far as possible… Use of motorised vehicles for shopping will be strictly discouraged,” said Mehta, adding that if social distancing norms are not followed, authorities will immediately close down such shops and markets.
Further, taxi, cab aggregators and autorickshaws have been allowed to ferry only two persons besides the driver for essential activities.
In the third phase from June 8, all private offices can be operate with up to 10 per cent strength. Sources said the staggered opening is in anticipation of a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases in the coming days. “A surge has been reported in some cities where the relaxations were given two weeks ago. We expect it to happen in Mumbai and other municipal corporation areas, which is why relaxations have been allowed phase-wise with some restrictions. Also, we do not want the people to step out of their homes unnecessarily,” said an official.
Mass transporters such as BEST and the suburban train service are not part of this graded opening. Nor are schools and colleges, religious places and places of worship, barber shops, spas and saloons, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants as well as social, political, sports, religious and large congregations.
Officials said increasing the staff strength of private and government offices would depend on the resumption of the local train services – a decision that has to be taken by the Centre – as well the kind of spike in cases in the coming days.
Uddhav, while addressing the state in the evening, said that newspaper home delivery will be allowed from June 7. “We are giving permission for home delivery of newspapers from next Sunday. But we need to take care of the newspaper vendors who need to be given a mask and a bottle of hand sanitiser,” he added.
He further said that it is difficult to hold final-year university exams till August. “So, we have taken a decision that students will be marked for the final semester on the basis of the aggregate marks of all their previous semester exams. Still, if any student feels that they could have scored more marks (than the aggregate marks), he or she can be given a choice to appear for exams whenever it is possible to hold the exams.”
Moreover, with increasing demand from various entertainment bodies to allow shooting, the government gave conditional permission to resume shooting of films, television serials, web series and others in non-containment zones. An official in the Chief Minister’s Office said: “Applications will be scrutinised and then the permission will be given. If applications are found satisfactory, it is possible that the permission to start production work will be given within a day.”
The 16-page Government Resolution (GR) said that steps should be taken to educate and sensitise all the partners and employees involved in the shooting process regarding preventive measures. Producers will have to carry out pre-production and post-production works by adhering to guidelines.
The GR also asked the producers to minimise crew strength by 33 per cent while all staffers are required to carry identification card while travelling for shoot. Whenever possible, casting should be done remotely via Facetime, Zoom, Skype and others such options. Minimal physical contact has to be ensured during the shoot.
All the necessary permissions to commence shoot for any TV show is to be procured by the respective broadcasting company from the collector of the district where the shooting is to take place. Meanwhile, the Shiv Sena has decided to turn its shakhas into clinics in Mumbai.
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