Inter-ministerial consultations have begun for unlock 3, which is likely to be notified from August 1. News18 has learnt that suggestions have been made to Ministry of Home Affairs to allow further relaxations in phase 3 of unlock.
Officials in Ministry of information and broadcasting told News18 that opening up of cinema halls has been proposed. "Yes, a proposal has been sent. The final decision will be that of MHA," an official said. I&B ministry consulted cinema owners before proposing opening up of halls with 25% seating capacity.
Nikilesh Surya, Executive director, Rohini Silverscreens, Chennai said that if the final decision also allows only 25% seating, it will be problem for theater owners. "Opening with 25% seating will not be of much help. Even at 50% operational costs would have been more. But at least a beginning would be made," he said.
Cinema owners have argued that film watching can be made a safe experience by maintaining social distancing between seats, having longer intervals between shows to sanitise theater and discourage queues at refreshment counters. Concern, however, remains about the air-conditioning inside theater contributing to circulation of infected air if even one person is corona positive.
The same concern has been expressed for Gymnasiums too. However, the MHA in unlock 3 could allow limited operation by gyms. Fixed batch timings, sanitisation of equipment and limited number of people present at one time have been proposed. Since medical opinion differs on wearing a mask and exercising, this too has been a concern in the past when gyms were not allowed to open in unlock 1 and 2.
Officials said that metro services and schools could also take time to resume. But the final decision even for cinema and gyms will be taken by state governments. Even if MHA allows lifting of further restrictions in unlock 3 notification, states will be given the freedom to continue with restrictions in the interest of public health. Many states have brought back lockdown even though center is moving towards third phase of unlocking.