What are the big things to have opened up?
The big news is that from October 15, cinemas, theatres, multiplexes, entertainment parks, and swimming pools used for training of sportspersons can open outside containment zones. Business to Business exhibitions can open too. The other big aspect is that states and UT’s are now allowed to move towards reopening of schools from October 15.
Are gatherings of people allowed without a bar?
The restrictions on gatherings of people for social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious and political functions have been relaxed further. For outdoor spaces, the guidelines put no numerical cap.
In closed spaces though, there is a ceiling of 200 people, or half the capacity of the venue.
In both, masks, social distancing, sanitizers and thermal scanning have to be arranged mandatorily.
What has changed from Unlock 4.0?
In Unlock 4.0, cinema halls, theatres, multiplexes, entertainment parks, swimming pools were all restricted. While states can now allow schools to open from October 15 after evolving SOPs of their own, in the last lockdown, only 50 per cent of teachers were allowed to come to school to facilitate online learning, and students from Classes 9 to 12 could come to school voluntarily to clear their doubts.
The guidelines for social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious and political functions were also previously capped at a 100 people. Rail travel was also restricted, and is no longer is, which signals a return to normal.
Are these guidelines already in operation and till when will they last?
These guidelines apply from October 1 and last till the 31st. Lockdown in containment zones has been extended till the 31st. Changes such as the relaxing of gathering rules, the reopening of schools, and the opening of cinema halls will only happen October 15th onwards.
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Can states make changes to these guidelines?
States and Union Territories have been specifically disallowed from imposing any local lockdowns except in containment zones, except if in “consultation with the MHA.”
However, it is the district authorities that decide where a containment zone must be, and are in charge of maintaining strict perimeter control and allowing only essential items.
There are other decisions that are in the hands of the states. For example, for re-opening schools, Centre has given states the “flexibility”, which means they can choose not to. If they do decide to open, it is the state governments that must come up with SOPs to ensure health and safety of student, in consonance with SOPs issued by the Department of School Education and Literacy.
Similarly, it is the responsibility of the state government to issue and enforce SOPs on gatherings to prevent the spread of COVID.
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With rising COVID cases, have any checks and balances been put in place?
With regard to the opening of schools, there are some conditions that the MHA has introduced. For one, it says online or distance learning is still preferred. In schools that offer it, children can choose to opt for online courses as opposed to physical attendance.
Attendance in any case cannot be imposed and will be based on the consent of the parents. The child, even if he does attend school, can only do so with written consent of his guardians.
For everything that is opening, SOPs will be devised by the ministries concerned. For cinemas and multiplexes for instance, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will issue guidelines, for business to business exhibitions it will be the Ministry of Commerce, for social gatherings the state government. This is perhaps why these can all reopen only after October 15 and not immediately.
Is there anything that is still shut?
Containment zones are still in operation. Residents inside these zones will still have to face perimeter control, and can only step out for essentials. Other than that, nothing is shut, but for international flights except where permitted by MHA. India has air bubbles with 13 countries already.
The guidelines specifically state that there shall be no restrictions on inter-state or intra-state movement, and no separate permission/approval/ or e-permit will be required for any movement. There is, however, an advisory for people with comorbidities, above 65 years old, pregnant women, and children under 10 to stay home.
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