The uncertainty over the lockdown is by and large over. The tentativeness about spatial and sectoral relaxations that persisted for over two months had a crippling effect on planning economic activities. The latest guidelines have not only continued with previous relaxations, but have also provided a roadmap on how and when the remaining restrictions would be rolled back.
This allows businesses and industries to plan for re-starting of activities. The lifting of restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods will practically unlock the economy entirely.
The decision came as India added a little over 50,000 new Covid-19 positive cases last week, up from about 41,000 cases it added in the previous week. Although rail and air travel still remains restricted, the roadmap for the unlockdown lobs responsibility into private — individuals and firms – hands.
While government offices had restarted long ago, private firms had been shackled by the restrictions. With the new norms, most sectors can re-start from this week. It is now up to the firms to decide their level and schedule of operations to ensure the health of workers is not compromised. Firms will most likely take this call through this week.
And as more and more firms start their activities, it will be for individuals to be conscious of the risks associated with the gathering of people, and to adhere to new behavioural norms not only to protect themselves but also their friends and colleagues.
You can expect the full potential of relaxations to be utilised only by the end of the week, as the announcements came over the weekend, and firms and individuals will look for state-specific tweaks to finalise their work/activity plans. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry will be readying standard operating procedures for the hospitality industry, shopping malls, and religious places through the week to facilitate their operationalisation from next week.
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Meanwhile, the issue of implementation of the nationwide lockdown is slated for scrutiny by a Parliamentary panel this week. The direction of the scrutiny by an all-party committee headed by a Congress leader has the potential to create political firecrackers this week.
The onset of monsoon this week will add another layer of complication for which the states, especially Mumbai (Maharashtra) with its heavy case load, needs to start preparing.
While the stand-off between the Indian and Chinese troops in Ladakh continued last week, the public acknowledgment of the military and diplomatic dialogue on the issue marked progress. Nepal’s domestic politics has emerged as another irritant, with legislative moves in Kathmandu over the issue of the boundary with India. New Delhi will have to engage with Kathmandu, and work behind the scenes to avoid this issue from escalating.
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