Coronavirus: India partially lifts lockdown, some states say no to relaxations

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Starting from Monday, India has slowly eased the restrictions imposed as part of a nationwide lockdown to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

In his address on April 14, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said the lockdown would be partially relaxed in some districts from April 20.

The graded lifting of the lockdown, put in place on March 25 and extended till May 3, has been targeted at reviving stalled economic activity and limiting the damage to the livelihoods of 400 million poor people in the country.

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While some regions of the country and some parts of the economy got back to work partially on Monday, restrictions were not lifted in areas still considered "hotspots" for the virus, including major cities.

State governments can decide what to reopen

The final decision on easing the restrictions in each state will be taken by the respective state governments.

The state of Kerala, which has been widely acknowledged for its success in dealing with the coronavirus, has announced a significant easing of the lockdown in areas that it has demarcated as “green” and “orange-b” zones, state police chief Loknath Behera said in an official release.

The state will allow private vehicular movement. But vehicles with odd numbers will be permitted on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays while those with even numbers will be allowed on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.

Dine-in services in restaurants were also allowed but with strict social distancing norms in place.

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Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said on Monday that the state government had allowed some industrial activity in the green and orange zones.

He added that all districts will remain sealed and only the movement of essential services will be permitted.

Maharashtra remains the worst-affected state in India with 4,203 confirmed cases and 223 deaths.

The Madhya Pradesh government on Sunday said it would provide some relaxations in certain districts of the state from April 20. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said in districts like Indore, Bhopal, Ujjain and others which are affected by the coronavirus spread, there won’t be any easing of norms.

But several state chief ministers have said that none of the restrictions will be lifted in their regions.

Delhi’s Arvind Kejriwal said the situation in the national capital was still serious and the decision would be reviewed after one week.

Captain Amarinder Singh-led Punjab government has ruled out any relaxation in the curfew in the state till May 3.

Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state in the country, and southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka, have decided not to lift any restrictions.

What sectors will remain open?

The new measures were aimed at easing pressure on agricultural businesses such as farming, fisheries and plantations, which employ more than half the country’s workforce. This measure will help the country avoid food shortages and allow daily-wagers and others working in these sectors to continue earning.

The supply chain in these industries was also restored by allowing cargo trucks to operate across state borders to transport produce from villages to the cities.

In addition, restrictions were eased in essential public works programs such as building roads and water lines in rural areas, which is a huge source of employment for hundreds of thousands of daily-wage earners. Self-employed workers such as plumbers, electricians and carpenters were also allowed to work.

But they were all strictly instructed to follow social distancing norms.

However, the government reversed on Sunday its decision announced last week to allow the delivery of non-essential items such as mobile phones, computers, and refrigerators by e-commerce firms.

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The suspension of domestic and international flights and inter-state travel has not been lifted.

Banks, ATMs, hospitals, clinics, pharmacies and government offices were exempted from the lockdown.

But all businesses and services that reopen are expected to follow social distancing norms. Organizations will have to ensure every employee wears a face mask, no employee is closer than 6 feet from another, and that there are no meetings of 10 people or more. Those with children below 5 years of age and those aged above 65 will be encouraged to work from home.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in India now stand at 17,656 including 14,255 active cases and 559 deaths.