The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued new guidelines for opening up of more activities in areas outside containment zones. Cinemas, theatres and multiplexes have been permitted to open with up to 50% of their seating capacity from October 15. Business to Business (B2B) exhibitions, swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons, and entertainment parks and similar places will be permitted to reopen as well.
However, the MHA has asserted that these activities will only be allowed in areas outside containment zones. “The new guidelines, issued today, are based on feedback received from States and UTs, and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments," said the MHA in a statement. Meanwhile, the lockdown will continue to be implemented strictly in containment zones till October 31.
All these activities had come to a sudden and grinding halt after the nationwide lockdown, announced first in March to halt the spread of the coronavirus infection. The lockdown was extended by a few months in each successive phase, with curbs being lifted later.
The Centre has given state governments the flexibility to decide on the reopening of schools, colleges, educational institutions and coaching institutions after October 15 in a graded manner. The new guidelines state that attendance should not be mandatory and the consent of parents’ is must, adding that an option of online classes must be given to those who do not wish to attend school yet.
The Unlock 5 guidelines, which come into effect from October 1, has also laid down rules to regulate social and public gatherings. While social/academic/sports/entertainment/cultural/religious/political functions and other congregations have already been permitted with a ceiling of 100 persons outside containment zones, the new rules allow this cap to be breached to beyond 100. This comes ahead of the Bihar assembly election scheduled to be held over three phases in October-November.
However, these gatherings will be subject to several conditions:
- In closed spaces, a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed, with a ceiling of 200 persons. Wearing of face masks, maintaining social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and use of hand wash or sanitiser will be mandatory.
- In open spaces, keeping the size of the ground/space in view, and with strict observance of social distancing, mandatory wearing of face masks, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitiser.
- To ensure that such gatherings do not spread COVID-19, state governments will issue detailed SOPs to regulate such gatherings and strictly enforce the rules.
Among the activities not yet permitted outside containment zones are international air travel of passengers, except as that permitted by the MHA.
States will not impose any local lockdown at any level, outside containment zones, without consulting the central government. There will be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods — no separate permission or approval or e-permit will be needed for such movement.
The guidelines said containment zones will be demarcated by district authorities at the micro level after taking into consideration the guidelines of the Ministry of Health, with the aim to effectively break the chain of transmission. Strict containment measures will be enforced in these containment zones and only essential activities will be allowed.
Within containment zones, strict perimeter control will be maintained and only essential activities allowed.
The containment zones will be notified on the websites of their respective District Collectors and by the states.