Shops, offices and industries will continue to remain shut in Mumbai and Pune. Deviating from the Union Home Ministry’s guidelines regarding the enforcement of the third phase of the nationwide lockdown, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray has decided to retain a tighter leash over activities permitted in four out of the 14 red (hotspot) districts of Maharashtra. These include Mumbai, Mumbai (suburbs), Thane, Pune. Additionally, a total lockdown will also prevail in Malegaon municipal corporation limit in Nashik district.
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At the epicentre of the coronavirus infections in India, Maharashtra has so far reported 12,296 cases and 521 deaths, with the financial capital alone accounting for 8,359 cases. Maharashtra has also ruled that paan and tobacco shops will remain shut across the state.
Earlier on Friday, the Union ministry had announced that all standalone (single) shops, neighbouring (colony) shops and shops in residential complexes will also be permitted to remain open in areas outside containment zones, red zone or hotspot districts for coronavirus on certain conditions. But Maharashtra’s notification, issued on Saturday, stated that this exemption will not be extended to shops located in the area of all municipal corporations within the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, the Pune municipal corporation, the Pimpri Chinchwad municipal corporation, and the Malegaon municipal corporation, which collectively account for 91 per cent of cases in the state. While liquor shops will be permitted in other region, they won’t be permitted in these areas, officials further clarified.
Similarly, while the Centre has permitted private offices in red zones to operate with up to 33 per cent staff attendance, the state has made an exception for these areas. Also export-oriented units, SEZs, units located in industrial townships and industrial estates, and production units which require continuous process, and their supply chains, permitted otherwise in non-containment areas within a hotspot, also have been disallowed in these six districts.
On the basis of risk profiling of districts, the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has labelled 14 districts in Maharashtra as red zones or hotspot districts for coronavirus, while six districts, which have seen zero case or reported no case in the last 21 days, have been categorised as green and 16 other districts, neither red or green, have been tagged as orange. Equating red zones with an active volcano, Thackeray had said on Friday that he does not favour lockdown relaxations in these areas. In his written order, Maharashtra’s Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, however, clarified that these exemptions will be available for establishments situated in non-infected areas in the remaining eight red districts, besides all orange and green districts. “The shops will be allowed to remain open, without any distinction of essential or non-essential units, provided there are only five in a lane. If there are more than five shops that only those selling essential commodities will be permitted.” On the lines of the Centre’s notification, all shops and industries in rural areas have been allowed.
But Maharashtra has clarified that developers in Mumbai and Pune will also be allowed construction in ongoing projects. But to do this, they will need special permission from the respective civic commissioners. Also, only those projects where workers are available on site will be permitted. Developers won’t be permitted to bring workers from outside. All pre-monsoon works, including water-proofing of infrastructure works, demolition of unsafe buildings, nullah desilting among others, have been permitted. Also permitted will be construction of renewable energy projects, manufacturing of IT hardware and packaging material.
The state has empowered district collectors to review if any additional area should be categorised as red or orange depending on the extent of new cases reported, while making it clear that the Centre’s classification of green or orange district cannot be lowered. But for areas situated outside municipal limits in a district, Collectors have been permitted to make an independent assessment. “In case a district has been categorised as a red zone, but there is no confirmed case in the last 21 days in the area of the district outside municipal limits, then such area may be labelled as orange zones. Similarly areas outside civic limits in an orange district can be labelled as green if there has been no case detected in such areas in the last 21 days. However caution must be exercised to ensure that such area remain free of COVID-19 cases,” Mehta’s order states.
Allaying concerns raised by the Mumbai municipality, Mehta has also asked authorities to ensure that cases are registered in the district where it originates rather than where it is being treated. Mumbai municipality had earlier argued against the inclusion of cases from neighbouring districts that are being treated in city hospitals in its own count.
While directing authorities to judiciously demarcate containment zones in congested cities like Mumbai and Pune, Mehta’s order further states that the local authority will ensure 100 per cent coverage of the Arogya Setu app within a containment zone to beef up contact tracing. “There should be strict perimeter control to ensure no movement of people in and out of the region,” it states. For economic activities in an orange zone outside containment area, inter district movement has been allowed for permitted activities on receipt of passes from the Collector’s office. While buses can also operation within green zones, they will run at 50 per cent passenger capacity. No one will be permitted to travel into a green zone without an authorised pass.
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