Unlock 5.0 Guidelines: States and Union Territories can take a decision on whether to open schools from October 15; cinemas and multiplexes will be allowed to open with 50 per cent capacity from the same date; limits on outdoor gatherings have been removed while indoors gatherings will be allowed with 50 per cent capacity — there are among the new unlockdown guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday evening.
The guidelines, which are to come into effect from October 15, also say PhD and post-graduate students of science and technology streams — those that may require laboratory work — can open, while a decision to open all colleges “may be taken” by the Department of Higher Education in consultation with the Home Ministry.
The MHA has relaxed limits on gatherings, both outdoor and indoor. “Now State/UT Governments have been given the flexibility to permit such gatherings beyond the limit of 100 persons outside Containment Zones, after 15th October 2020”, the MHA said.
The caveat, however, is that for indoor spaces, the gathering can’t exceed 50 per cent of the hall capacity or 200 people. For outdoor events, the guidelines say that the size of the ground must be kept in mind, though the MHA has not mandated a ceiling. In both cases, the guidelines prescribe masks, social distancing and other Covid protocol.
The new unlockdown norms mean that the only thing that remains completely barred (outside containment zones) are international flights, except “when permitted by the MHA”. India already has air bubble arrangements with 13 countries.
Business to business exhibitions are allowed, too, and swimming pools “being used for sportspersons” are also permitted to open, as are entertainment parks. All of these will have SOPs issued by their governing ministries and will be permitted to open from October 15.
On the re-opening of schools, the MHA said “State/ UT Governments have been given the flexibility to take a decision after 15th October 2020, in a graded manner.”
The decision will be taken in consultation with the respective school/institution management, based on their assessment of the situation. However, the ministry said online learning shall continue to be the “preferred” mode of teaching and shall be “encouraged.
“Where schools are conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so. Students may attend schools/institutions only with the written consent of parents. Attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent. States/UTs will prepare their own SOPs regarding health and safety precautions for reopening of schools/ institutions based on the SOP to be issued by the Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL), Ministry of Education… keeping local requirements in view,” the MHA said.
On colleges, the MHA said the Department of Higher Education “may take a decision on the timing of the opening of Colleges/Higher Education Institutions… based on the assessment of the situation. However in the immediate future, institutions only for research scholars and post graduate students from the sciences and technology streams that require laboratory work will be permitted to open.
“For Centrally Funded Higher Education Institutions, the Head of Institution will satisfy herself/himself that there is a genuine requirement of research scholars (PhD) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream for laboratory/experimental works. For all other Higher Education Institutions e.g. State Universities, Private Universities etc., they may open only for research scholars (PhD) and postgraduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory/experimental works as per decision to be taken by the respective State/UT Governments,” the guidelines state.
The order, while extending the lockdown in containment zones until October 31, says state governments shall not impose local lockdowns outside such zones wihout consulting the Ministry. There are no restrictions on inter- and intra-state movement either.
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