The fifth phase of the nationwide lockdown could see additional relaxations in restrictions with the focus shifting to controlling Covid-19 outbreak in the containment zones.
As the countdown to the end of Lockdown 4.0 begins, the Ministry of Home Affairs is working on future modalities. Home Minister Amit Shah on Friday held a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence to work out the final details. The final decision will be taken by the Union Health Ministry and Home Ministry within 48 hours.
Home Minister Amit Shah’s meeting with the prime minister comes a day after he talked to all chief ministers and took their suggestions on the Lockdown 4.0 exit strategy.
As per sources, two out of 11 special Covid-19 panels have also submitted their recommendations for the exit strategy. The panels, headed by CK Mishra and Dr VK Paul, have recommended lifting all other lockdown curbs except those on schools, colleges, movie halls and religious places. Nothing has been proposed on the resumption of international travel even as domestic air travel and train travel has started in India. However, the panel has recommended not to reopen inter-state travel as several states remain wary of reopening road borders.
The panels have also said that the additional focus should be given to scaling up of containment measures in the worst-hit districts.
There are 13 districts that have been identified as worst-hit as they attribute for 70 per cent of Covid-19 cases in India. These are: Municipalities of Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi/New Delhi, Ahmadabad, Thane, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata/Howrah, Indore, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Chengalpattu (Tamil Nadu) and Thiruvallur (Tamil Nadu).
Several chief ministers want the lockdown to continue in some form but also favoured opening up of the economic activities and gradual return of the normal life.
Several states, in their recommendations, have said that they want a progressive dilution of restriction allowing for greater economic activity.
In the fifth lockdown, states may have a say on curfew timing.
The nationwide curbs were first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 for 21 days in a bid to contain the spread of novel coronavirus. As India now nears 70 days of lockdown, here’s a look at what it’s next phase could look like.
What Lockdown 5.0 will likely look like:
What will remain closed
Educational institutions: The Centre is likely to keep schools and colleges closed for the month of June. West Bengal has already announced that the schools will remain closed all through June.
Religious places: The empowered committees have suggested the Centre to keep places of worship closed during the next phase of the lockdown. However, at least two states – West Bengal and Karnataka – have urged the Centre to allow their reopening with instructions for proper sanitisation and social distancing.
Entrainment centres: The recommendations submitted to the Centre by special committees advocate for keeping the cinema halls and other places of mass gathering closed.
What will reopen:
As per states and panel recommendations, all activities, except mentioned above would be resumed in green and orange zones as well as red zones outside the containment areas.
What states want:
Himachal Pradesh has decided to extend lockdown in three districts of Hamirpur, Solan and Shimla till June 30. The state government has authorised three district magistrates to extend the lockdown measures beyond the current phase ending on May 31.
Goa CM Pramod Sawant has said his state may announce a two-week extension of the lockdown. Goa wants dining-in allowed in restaurants with 50 per cent capacity.
Karnataka wants to reopen religious places.
Like Karnataka, the Bengal government says all places of worship should be allowed to reopen from June 1. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already made an announcement to that effect. However, more than 10 persons are not allowed to gather inside any religious place at one time. Interestingly, West Bengal CM has said she did not receive a call from Home Minister Amit Shah.
Jammu and Kashmir, like Karnataka and West Bengal, has been seriously mooting over the proposal to allow a 15-day Amaranth yatra due in June end, but sources said no final decision has been taken. The administration, like several other states, wants greater economic activity. While agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry is already working, there is a view that newly-carved UT needs to engage stakeholders for eventual re-opening of hotels and handicrafts by issuing SOPs followed by workshops.
Punjab will take a final call on Saturday. But top sources say that state is keen that certain restrictions remain with schools, colleges, malls and cinema complexes, but has also advocated for greater economic activity.
Haryana is said to be in favour of extension on lockdown while keeping its border with Delhi completely sealed due to increasing Covid-19 cases.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal wants a greater opening up including opening up of malls and public transport like the metro rail.
The northeastern states, according to the government sources, have demanded that states should have more say in the curbs list but will follow all guidelines as per the NDMA act.
A top government functionary said the spirit of lockdown will have to be inculcated in the long-run with making masks and social distancing a part of life. The responsibility of living with “lockdown spirit” will ultimately lie with individuals.