With just a day left, India is set to enter phase five of its nationwide lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Lockdown 5.0 is likely to see further whitelisting of activities that were not allowed in the previous phases including opening of malls, multiplexes, places of worship, and dine-in restaurants, the Indian Express has learnt. And the 7 pm to 7 am curfew and curbs on inter-state movement might also see some changes subject to states agreeing to them.
Besides this, the government may also consider relaxing night curfew hours based on suggestions from health experts. However, based on suggestions from various states, strict curbs are likely to continue in containment zones, and “there will also be some restrictions in 13 key cities where the concentration of Covid-19 cases is very high”, an official said.
While the government is yet to issue guidelines for Lockdown 5.0, here is what we know:
* Air services: More travel routes are likely to open in Lockdown 5.0. At the moment, while the government has permitted airline companies to fly to any airport in the country, the decision has been left to operators depending on demand — in the last week, demand for non-metro routes has been significantly higher than metro routes.
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As air travel resumed, the government had limited flights to one-third capacity of the decided summer schedule on routes connecting metros to metros and those connecting metros to non-metros with more than 100 departures a week.
With regard to international air travel, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri last week said “a good percentage” of flight could begin before August.
* Train services: The Railways has been operating Shramik Special trains for migrant labourers to return to their home states. Until May 28, 3,736 trains transported some 50 lakh stranded workers. Around 40 per cent of these trains ferried labourers from Gujarat and Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
From June 1, the Railways is looking to begin operating 100 pairs of mail/express trains, bookings for which have already begun. After this, the next set of train services is likely to have AC class services.
* Intra-state buses and metro services: Some states have already begun intra-state buses, like Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Other states may follow suit after June 1. For inter-state movement, the Centre is likely to leave it on the states for the final call.
Metro services, however, may remain out of bounds due to the “centralised AC system” that could fuel the infection. Delhi is likely to reiterate the demand to resume Metro operations.
* Shops, markets, malls: Shops selling non-essential items were allowed to open when India entered the fourth phase of lockdown. Lockdown 5.0 could see more shops opening, even those in markets.
Moreover, the Centre is likely to allow the states to decide on the opening of shopping malls and multiplexes. Many shops that have re-opened in market areas are operating on an odd-even basis.
* Gyms, movie theatres, religious places, salons: So far, gyms and theatres have been asked to remain closed. However, the new guidelines would include relaxations on visiting places of worship but “no religious event or gathering will be allowed”.
Some cities have already allowed salons and beauty parlours to open with strict enforcement of guidelines like social distancing and wearing protective gear. These however are likely to continue remaining closed in containment areas.
* Schools: The HRD Ministry is working on guidelines for when schools reopen, The Indian Express reported. These guidelines could include older children of Classes 9, 10, 11, and 12 going back to school first; compulsory masks and social distancing; frequent sanitization of classrooms; prohibition of morning assemblies, among others.
Sources said the Union Home Ministry is finalising the guidelines for the next phase after Home Minister Amit Shah spoke to Chief Ministers over the last 24 hours, and met Prime Minister Narendra Modi Friday.
In the first indication that the lockdown may be extended, Goa Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant was earlier quoted by local media on Friday as saying, “Held a telephonic conversation with Home Minister Amit Shah, lockdown likely to increase by 15 days.”
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already announced the easing of curbs starting June 1, allowing places of worship to open with maximum ten persons present at a time, and prohibiting any major gathering or celebration of festivals. All offices in private and public sector will also be allowed to operate with a 100 per cent strength from June 8, the Chief Minister said, adding that social distancing has to be followed in all cases.
The country first imposed restrictions on movement of people and sale of non-essential items on March 24. Since then, restrictions have gradually eased across the country, except in containment zones.
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