The third phase of the nationwide lockdown ended on Sunday. Signs of greater relaxations and flexibility can be witnessed in the lockdown 4.0, beginning on Monday, with gradual easing of curbs to scale up economic activities in non-containment zones.
Schools, colleges, malls and cinema halls will not be allowed to resume services anywhere in the country but salons, barber shops and optical shops may be allowed in red zones, barring COVID-19 containment areas.
According to an official at the Centre, Punjab, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Assam and Telengana wanted the lockdown to be extended, and to be given powers to decide the zoning of districts as per COVID-19 situation.
However, the final guidelines will be issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs only after going through the suggestions of state governments.
Gradual and need-based operations of railways and domestic airlines are likely to be allowed but full fledged resumption of the two services is, however, unlikely to take place immediately depending on the ground reality.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on Monday, had said that the lockdown 4.0 will have a “completely different form”, with new rules.
“No state wants complete withdrawal of lockdown but all want gradual resumption of economic activities,” the official said.
Gradual and need-based operations of the railways and domestic airlines are likely to be allowed from next week but full-fledged opening of the two sectors is unlikely to take place immediately.
The railways have already brought special trains to 15 destinations from Delhi and have been running several hundred ‘Shramik Special’ trains from different parts of the country to various places for transportation of migrant workers with no means to commute back home due to the lockdown.
The Air India has also lent help in evacuation of thousands of Indians stranded abroad during the lockdown under the ‘Vande Bharat Mission’.
Local trains, buses and metro services may start running with limited capacity in non-containment areas of red zones.
Autos and taxis are also expected to be allowed in red zones with restrictions on the number of passengers.
Most of these services will be allowed within the districts in non-containment areas and state governments may be authorised to take a call on their reopening, another official said.
Powers to recommence markets in orange and red zones may be vested upon state governments, which may go along with odd-even policy while allowing shops of non-essential goods to open.
E-commerce platforms may be allowed to deliver non-essential items even in red zones, barring the containment areas. Sale of non-essential items by e-commerce companies have already allowed in green and orange zones.
Maharashtra, which has the highest number of COVID-19 cases and deaths from the virus, wants imposition of strict lockdown measures in Mumbai, its suburbs and Pune, and complete stop of inter-state and inter-district transport of any kind. Whereas, Gujarat with second highest number of positive cases wants resumption of economic activities in major urban centres.
Kerala sought industrial and commercial activities to be permitted in rural and urban areas except in containment zones. Intra-district bus service with limited number of passengers and strict measures on social distancing have also been suggested.
Resumption of hospitality sector with strict social distancing norms inside restaurants have also been mooted. Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, which have witnessed a surge in the COVID-19 cases after arrival of migrant workers, want continuation of lockdown with strict curbs on movement of people.