State governments on Sunday came out with varied 'Unlock 1' guidelines including on allowing inter-state travel even as Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Telangana extended the lockdown till June 30 with several relaxations, a day after the Centre eased the 68-day shutdown curbs significantly with an economic focus.
As the Centre's three-phase unlock plan that will restrict curbs to containment zones kicks in from Monday after the end of the fourth phase of the national lockdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cautioned people against showing any laxity in the fight against COVID-19 and asked them to be "extra alert and careful", while acknowledging that the poor and labourers have been hit the hardest by the crisis. "Becoming careless or lackadaisical cannot be an option".
The expanding lockdown relaxations came even as India registered its highest single-day spike of COVID-19 cases on Sunday with 8,380 new infections reported in the last 24 hours, taking the country's tally to 1,82,143, while the death toll rose by 193 to reach 5,164. The figures were based on the morning update released by the Union Health Ministry.
According to a tally of COVID-19 cases reported from the states till evening, India with a total of 184,662 infections climbed to the eighth position among the top 10 affected countries surpassing Germany(183,302).
As Delhi, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha recorded the biggest spurt in cases in a single day so far, Modi in his monthly 'Mann Ki Baat' broadcast warned people against letting their guard down while noting that a big part of the economy has opened and train and flight services have begun operating partially with more relaxations on the anvil,
After such "austere penance and after so many hardships", the country's deft handling of the situation should "not go in vain", he said.
Modi said, "Whether it is the mandatory 'do gaz ki doori' (two yards of distancing), wearing face masks or staying at home to the best extent possible, there should be no laxity on our part in complete adherence to the laid down norms.
"We must not let this fight weaken. Becoming careless or lackadaisical cannot be an option. The fight against coronavirus is still equally serious. You, your family, may still face grave danger from coronavirus," he cautioned.
With the Centre seeking to underline the reduced footprint of the unprecedented lockdown in force since March 25, its strategy revolved around localised lockdowns leaving it to states to decide where, how and to what extent to lift the shutdown as the number of COVID-19 cases varied from state to state. The phased reopening of areas outside the containment zones will be effective till June 30.
The Home Ministry on Saturday said 'Unlock-1' will come in force from June 8 under which the lockdown norms will be relaxed to a great extent, including opening of shopping malls, restaurants and religious places, while strict restrictions will remain in place till June 30 in the country's worst-hit areas. A total of 30 municipality areas in the country are considered to be the worst-hit.
The Maharashtra government while announcing the extension of the lockdown in the entire state till June 30, preferred to call the new phase of reopening as "Mission Begin Again". It allowed many relaxations and phase-wise resumption of activities.
All markets, market areas and shops, except malls, will be allowed to open in Maharashtra from June 5 on the odd-even basis in non-containment zones. However, religious places, shopping malls, hotels and restaurants will continue to remain closed.
In a major relief, the state government allowed outdoor physical activities like morning walks and cycling. Maharashtra is the worst affected state, reporting 65,168 cases and 2,197 deaths so far.
The Tamil Nadu government while announcing the extension of the lockdown till June 30 said curbs will remain for inter-state bus transport and Metro and suburban train services. With 22,333 cases, the state is in the second position in the national tally.
Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao announced the extension of lockdown in the containment zones till June 30 but said there would not be any restrictions on inter-state travel.
Mizoram also extended the lockdown till June 30 while it will be in force till June 8 in Jammu and Kashmir. States like Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka also lifted restrictions on the inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods.
The UP government allowed inter-state travel but left it to the district administrations of Ghaziabad and Gautam Buddh Nagar to take a call on the movement of people from adjoining Delhi.
The Noida-Delhi border will remain sealed for movement of people to and from the national capital, the Gautam Buddh Nagar administration said in its latest guidelines in the evening.
A Delhi government official said it is in favour of allowing inter-state movement of people from Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurgaon and other NCR cities as phase-wise relaxations are set to start from next month.
The official said the Delhi government has not opposed the movement of people from these towns and it is the authorities in Uttar Pradesh and Haryana which have restricted the entry from the national capital, citing spike in COVID-19 cases. With 19,844 cases, Delhi is in the third position in the national COVIDE-19 tally.
In Maharashtra, the guidelines said inter-state and inter-district movement of persons like stranded migrant workers shall continue to be regulated.
The MHA had said there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods and no additional permission is required for such travel.
"However, if a state or UT, based on reasons of public health and its assessment of the situation, proposes to regulate movement of persons, it will give wide publicity in advance regarding the restrictions to be placed on such movement, and the related procedures to be followed," it said.
In their guidelines, the states were agreed on the central guidelines to ease night curfew which shall now remain in force from 9 PM to 5 AM during which movement of individuals and all non-essential activities will not be allowed. Earlier, the timing was from 7 PM to 7 AM.
The Rajasthan government allowed government and private sector organsiations to function with full strength of their employees and said there would be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods.
The Gujarat government has decided to allow shops and businesses located outside the COVID-19 containment zones to operate without any restrictions.
In Uttarakhand, Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj, his wife Amrita Rawat and 21 others, including members of his family and staff, tested positive for coronavirus. An official said Satpal Maharaj had also attended a meeting of the state cabinet on Friday.
Two Delhi Police Assistant Sub-Inspectors have died due to COVID-19 since Saturday evening, taking the overall coronavirus casualty figure in the force to three, officials said.
While a 52-year-old ASI died around 11.30 am Sunday during treatment at the Army Base Hospital in Delhi, another officer of the rank passed away at the same facility Saturday evening, they said. A Delhi Police spokesperson said that nearly 500 personnel have tested positive for the deadly virus so far.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday announced a four-week extension of the coronavirus lockdown in the state till June 30, saying the threat of COVID-19 was not over yet and he would continue with tough measures, if necessary, to save lives of the people. Singh, however, said his government will take into account the Centre's guidelines on the lockdown.
In Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the lockdown in the state to contain coronavirus will be extended till June 15.
The West Bengal government extended the lockdown by two more weeks till June 15, but also announced some conditional relaxations June 1 onwards, including for allowing TV and cinema production activities.