May 4, 2020 4:57:46 am
From Monday, liquor shops, electronic stores, mobile phone stores and stationary shops will be allowed to reopen in Mumbai and Pune, the Maharashtra government announced on Sunday. The state, however, capped the total number of “non-essential” and “standalone” shops that can reopen on any lane, street or road to a maximum of five, and that too only outside containment zones in these metropolitan areas.
The new order released by the state government on Sunday stated: “All standalone (single) shops, neighbourhood (colony) shops and shops in residential complexes, without any distinction of essential and non-essential, are permitted to remain open in urban areas excluding containment zones.”
Meanwhile, in line with the guidelines issued by the government, the state excise department issued a notification allowing retail liquor shops to remain open from 10 am to 6 pm in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) and municipal corporations areas of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Malegaon. However, wholesale liquor shops will remain open only till 5 pm.
Prohibiting the drinking of alcohol in liquor shops, the notification added that no more than five consumers should queue up in front of the shops at a time. “The shopowners must conduct thermal scanning of all workers and consumers. If anyone has any symptoms of cold, cough and fever, then the person should not be given entry into the shop,” it said. “The shop and surrounding area has to be sanitised after every two hours,” it added.
However, later in the day, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) declared 69 “micro containment zones” – reporting maximum number of cases – which would be completely sealed from midnight till May 17. In areas outside the micro containment zones, the amended directives issued by the state government on Sunday would be applicable.
In an order, Municipal Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad said, “The entire PMC area was declared a containment zone and restrictions were put on public movement across the city. Now, it has been noticed that most cases are concentrated in certain pockets. So, it is necessary to identify micro containment zones and enforce restrictions of containment zones only in these areas.” Shops of essential commodities will operate in these zones from 10 am to 2 pm.
Last Friday, the Union Home Ministry had announced that all standalone shops, neighbouring shops and shops in residential complexes would be be permitted to remain open in areas outside containment zones in red zones or hotspot districts on certain conditions.
But a state government notification, issued on Saturday, had stated that this exemption would not be extended to any shop located in municipal corporations areas within the MMR, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Malegaon, which collectively account for 91 per cent of cases in the state.
With Sunday’s notification, the government seems to have had a change of heart to loosen the restrictions a little.
Chief Secretary Ajoy Mehta, in his order on Sunday, said: “…in areas under Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune Municipal Corporation, Pimpri Chinchwad Municipal Corporation and Malegaon Municipal Corporation, if there are more than five shops in a lane/road, then besides all shops selling essential goods, up to a maximum five shops selling non-essential goods in that lane/road, will be permitted to remain open.”
Bhushan Gagrani, principal secretary in the government’s Corona Control Room, emphasised that only standalone shops outside containment zones of these areas can stay open. As of Saturday, there were 1,459 containment zones in areas falling under Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s jurisdiction.
“The non-essential shops include liquor, electronic goods, mobile and stationary among others. Liquor shops can be opened if they are standalone and are not part of malls, restaurants and hotels,” said Gagrani.
He added that while no more than five non-essential shops will be allowed in a lane to avoid crowding, there is no such cap on the numbers of essential shops. “The local administration will take a call which five standalone non-essential shops will stay open,” said Gagrani.
He further said that social distancing measures have to be followed strictly at shops in these areas. While construction projects have also been allowed in these regions if the industries have made accommodation arrangements for the workers on site, private offices will not be allowed to open in these areas, said Gagarani. All shops will, however, remain open in orange and green zones.
Sources in the government said that it is a part of a graded exit strategy from the lockdown. “Except MMR and municipal corporations areas of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Malegaon, we have allowed activities in rest of the state. Some activities have not been permitted in these areas, as a large number of cases have been reported from these places,” said an official, adding that allowing liquor shops to operate will help the state generate revenue.