With over 86,000 new cases in the last 24 hours, India’s coronavirus tally has now crossed the 63-lakh mark. India recently surpassed Brazil to become the second worst-hit nation across the world. Amidst the rising number of cases, the Ministry Of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued a fresh set of guidelines for the next phase of relaxation of the COVID-19 lockdown. Unlock 5 will come into effect from October 1 and will continue till October 31.
The lockdown in containment zones has been extended till the end of October but cinema halls have been permitted to start operations, but with some standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place. The MHA in its release said, “The new guidelines, issued today, are based on feedback received from States and Union Territories (UTs), and extensive consultations held with related Central Ministries and Departments.”
Here’s everything you need to know what’s allowed and what’s not in Unlock 5:
- After being shut since March 25, cinema halls have finally got a green signal from the government. The cinemas/multiplexes/theatres will start their operations from October 15, however, with up to 50% of their seating capacity. The SOP will be soon issued by the Ministry Of Information & Broadcasting for the same.
- Entertainment parks and similar places will also be permitted to open from October 15, for which the SOP will be issued by the Ministry Of Health & Family Welfare.
- Schools, colleges and other coaching institutions have also been shut since March 25. But now, the government has given the flexibility to the states and UT governments to reopen them. It will be their decision to open the educational institutions in a graded manner after October 15.
The statement read, “The decision shall be taken in consultation with the respective school/institution management, based on their assessment of the situation.” According to the MHA statement, online/distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching, however, students may attend school/colleges (if they want) with the written consent of their parents.
Attendance must not be forced and the schools, which are allowed to open, will have to strictly follow the SOP issued by the Education Departments of States/UTs.
“Department of Higher Education (DHE), Ministry of Education may take a decision on the timing of the opening of Colleges/ Higher Education Institutions, in consultation with the MHA, based on the assessment of the situation,” read the statement. The Higher Education Institutions only for research scholars and post-graduate students in science and technology that require laboratory work will be permitted to open from October 15.
- Swimming pools being used to train sportspersons will also open, for which the SOP will be issued by the Ministry Of Youth Affairs & Sports.
- As far as gatherings are concerned, a ceiling of 100 people was already permitted outside containment zones. But now, it’s up to the states/UT government to permit (social/sports/political/cultural/religious) gatherings beyond the limit of 100 people. Below are some of the conditions that MHA stated regarding the same.
For closed spaces, a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity will be allowed with a ceiling of 200 people. Face masks, maintaining social distancing and thermal scanning and sanitisation is mandatory. The same rule applies for open spaces as well. SOPs will be issued to the states/UT governments to ensure that such gatherings do not contribute to spreading of the dreaded virus.
- According to the fresh guidelines, international travel (except the those permitted by the government), continues to remain shut.
- Within the containment zones, strict precautions will be taken and only essential activities will be allowed.
- States/UT governments will not impose any local lockdowns (outside containment zones) without consulting with the central government.
People above the age of 65, children below the age of 10, pregnant women and people with comorbidities are still advised to stay at home. The use of the Aarogya Setu app is mandatory too.
Coming back to what’s been allowed in Unlock 5, Abhishek Bachchan called the reopening of cinema halls, the ‘best news of the week’. Meanwhile, the hall owners rejoiced too as they will be back in business. But the question here is, are we really ready? The number of coronavirus cases are increasing in the country and with the relaxations being introduced, things are likely to get worse. Reports have suggested that September was the worst month for India as we added 41% of casesload with over 26 lakh new infections and 34% of the deaths.
Yes, the government is easing the restrictions but it’s up to us as to how we do our part to curb the spread of the virus. We’d recommend you to stay indoors and only go out when it’s absolutely necessary, because the pandemic is far from over. Stay safe.
Featured Image: Pexels/Twitter/Amit Singh