The centre is expected to announce guidelines for the fifth phase of easing of Covid-related restrictions, or “Unlock 5”, in the next couple of days as the current phase – “Unlock 4” – is due to end on Wednesday.
“Unlock 5” will likely come into effect on the following day – Thursday, October 1 – and is expected to stay in place till October 30.
While there is considerable speculation about what will and what will not be reopened, the Uddhav Thackeray-led government in Maharashtra has prepared guidelines to reopen restaurants starting October 1.
Dine-in service at restaurants in Maharashtra – the worst affected state in the country – have been shut since the first lockdown in March. Restaurants (outside containment zones) had been “unlocked” by in July, but the state opted against this given the high active caseload and daily increase.
Under “Unlock 4”, metro train services have been re-started (in a graded manner) across the country, and social, political, academic, sporting, religious and other functions are allowed with an increased limit of 100 attendees.
Swimming pools and indoor movie theatres, however, remain closed.
Metro services in major cities were reopened in stages with emphasis on cashless, or contactless, travel, social distancing and the use of face masks and sanitisers.
Previously metro services had been stopped and the number of people at functions was limited to 50, as part of the government’s attempts to limit physical contact between people and prevent the infectious coronavirus from spreading further.
“Unlock 4” also allowed schools across the country – which had been shut since the first Covid lockdown in March – to partially reopen from September 21.
Guidelines issued by the Home Ministry said students between Class 9 and 12 could come attend school in staggered shifts to clarify doubts from teachers, providing these schools were outside containment zones and they had parents’ permission.
The ministry also said up to 50 per cent of teachers and non-teaching staff could return to schools (while observing required hygiene protocols). The rest, the ministry added, could continue with online classes, as has become the norm in the pandemic.
The phased reopening of schools, however, was not made mandatory so some regions, including national capital Delhi, opted to keep them closed this month. Some others however, like Assam, Nagaland and Haryana, opted to reopen schools, in line with the centre’s guidelines.
Last month the centre issued guidelines for “Unlock 3” (August 1 to 31) that ended night curfew and allowed gyms and yoga institutes to reopen. All other restrictions remained – particularly those that involved large gatherings – remained in place.
Both “Unlock 3” and “Unlock 4” emphasised that inter-state travel is now permitted without the need for prior permission or e-passes.
India has recorded around 80,000 new Covid cases per day so far this month; 82,170 were logged over the past 24 hours, government data showed this morning. The country has logged over 60 lakh cases since the pandemic began in China’s Wuhan in December last year.
A strict lockdown – potentially the world’s strictest – was enforced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in March, but the move left the economy in dire condition and prompted the government to begin a series of “unlocks” that started in June.