India begins easing lockdown as daily Covid numbers record new high

New Delhi, Jun 1 (efe-epa).- India gradually resumed outdoor activities as lockdown measures started easing on Monday following two months of strict confinement even as the total Covid-19 cases across the country reached 191,000, with a record 8,392 new cases a day earlier.

Several trains started ferrying general passengers, and people were able to move freely, and shops in general market places began doing business for longer after the union home ministry announced the easing of restrictions.

However, people in public places are required to follow strict social distancing norms and use face masks, whereas the use of contact tracing app Arogya Setu has also been encouraged.

The relaxations are not applicable for containment zones, to be demarcated by the state authorities following health ministry guidelines and where strict perimeter control would be ensured and all non-essential services and movement prohibited.

A night-time curfew would be in force across the country between 9 pm and 5 am for all non-essential activities, as against 7 pm-7 am until now.

The ministry circular on Saturday said the fresh directives would remain in effect for a month and would focus on economic recovery as the lockdown brought the economy of the country of 1.3 billion people to a standstill, resulting in huge job losses and hardship for large sections of the people.

From Jun.8, all religious places and places of worship for the public will be opened, along with shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality services.

The government said a decision on reopening schools, colleges, and other educational institutions would be taken next month after consultations with all concerned stakeholders.

Meanwhile, activities such as international air travel and metro rail services remain banned, along with all social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, and religious functions, and other large congregations, until further notice.

These would also include leisure hotspots such as theaters, swimming pools, entertainment parks, bars, and gyms.

While the guidelines have underlined that there would be no restrictions on the inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods, the states may regulate the same “based on reasons of public health and its assessment of the situation.”

In this regard, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, in a televised address, announced shutting the state borders for another week and invited suggestions from the people about reopening them.

Kejriwal spoke of his government’s investments in the healthcare sector, underlining that there were “as of today 2300-2400 patients… soon we will have 9,500 beds available for patients.”

“The moment borders open people from all over the country will come here for treatment. So the 9,500 beds kept aside for corona patients (in Delhi) will fill up in two days,” he said.

He also announced the reopening of barbershops and salons “but not spas”, lifting of restrictions on the number of passengers in four-wheelers and auto-rickshaws, and removing the ban on pillion riding on two-wheelers.

Meanwhile, in the state of Maharashtra, the worst affected by the coronavirus and where the country’s financial capital Mumbai is located, all barbers shops, salons, and spas have been ordered to remain shut until the end of the month, along with shopping malls, hotels, restaurants, and other hospitality services.

However, residents of several cities such as Pune, Nashik, Aurangabad, and Nagpur, among others, will be allowed to exercise (walking, running, jogging) in the open air from Jun.3 but not in public indoor spaces.

The government’s measure to ease lockdown despite increasing coronavirus cases in the country comes in the wake of recent surveys that indicate unemployment shooting up to alarming levels in India amid an unprecedented closure of nearly all businesses, and over 80 percent of households reporting a drop in income due to the lockdown measures in place since Mar. 25. EFE-EPA


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