States tread carefully, likely to redefine zones after May 17
Karnataka may open hotels and gyms after May 17, Rajasthan wants inter-district travel allowed
NEWDELHI: State governments on Wednesday started working on their strategy for the fourth phase of the lockdown, which is expected to largely affect only the containment zones, which range from a building to a locality, and which is also expected to see the resumption of almost all activities, except large social gatherings and the reopening of educational institutions.
Officials in several states said guidelines defining containment zones would come by Saturday. They said a district may have red, orange and green areas, unlike the existing definition where an entire district is defined as red, orange or green, depending on number of Covid cases. HT learns that states may be allowed to take a call on this classification ; currently the zoning is done by the union health ministry.
The officials, who asked not to be identified said their states would likely allow all industrial activities, offices, and standalone stores to function from May 18 onwards. Public transport will also resume, they said. And people will be allowed to travel freely between districts, except in containment zones, and to other states with travel passes. And home delivery of all goods, not just essentials, would be allowed, the officials added.
HT spoke to 18 officials across 15 states. All the officials said educational institutions would continue to remain closed. Most schools in the north close around the middle of May in any case; and those in the south that usually reopen in June may take a call on whether or not to do so closer to the end of the month, they added.
Religious and political meetings are unlikely to be allowed for some more time. Malls and other public places will also remain out of bounds. Marriages and funerals will be allowed with limited attendees, the officials said.
Some states may have statespecific relaxations.
For instance, the Karnataka government wants interstate travel with a 14-day quarantine. The Rajasthan government has allowed inter-district travel and wants interstate travel, as does the Chhattisgarh government. Kerala wants restricted interstate travel . Bihar and Jharkhand are against any interstate movement and have asked the Centre to provide guidance.
Telangana, which has extended the lockdown till May 29, is likely to announce more relaxations in sectors such as information technology and real estate. Kerala wants the resumption of metro services, local trains, domestic flights, restaurants and hotels to revive the tourism sector. Karnataka may open restaurants, hotels and gymnasiums and golf courses after May 17. Andhra has proposed resumption of all activities except in containment areas. Both Himachal and Uttarakhand will allow hotels and resorts to open with limited capacity.
In effect, a weekly atlas of what’s open and what’s not, and in which state, may be needed.
Gujarat, which has second highest number of Covid-19 cases in the country, wants to resume all economic activity in major urban centres except Ahmedabad, which accounts for 70% of the state’s cases. Rajkot will fully open from Thursday and Surat from Monday, officials said. Tamil Nadu, another highly industrialised state and with the third highest number of cases in the country, plans to open all places except containment areas.
Maharashtra, which has the maximum number of Covid-19 cases in the country and 1,289 containment areas, has opted for a minimalistic approach.State officials said it does not want metro services to resume, nor will it allow inter-district travel. It will also not allow offices to open fully although more industries will be allowed to function in orange and green zones.
In cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Thane and Nashik, all hotspots, the officials said, lockdown 3.0 conditions are likely to continue. “Newer hotspots like Aurangabad and Jalgaon have been added to the list of cities such as Mumbai and Pune. In such a scenario, the lifting of the lockdown for at least two more weeks is not possible,” said a senior government officer.
Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha want to continue with stricter lockdown because they are seeing a rise in cases with the return of migrant workers. “We will have no exemptions in the fourth phase as Covid cases are increase. In fact, we are looking at stricter lockdown,” a Bihar government official said.
State governments have formed committee of officials to chalk out specific guidelines for the next phase of the lockdown. Andhra Pradesh has formed six committees to work out strategies, said K S Jawahar Reddy, state special chief secretary (medical and health). The Kerala constituted a task force headed by former chief secretary K M Abraham, which is expected to submit report by Thursday. Rajasthan’s expert panel on the exit strategy will submit report on Friday. The Gujarat government has formed a committee of medical experts to suggest control spread of Covid once the curbs are relaxed.
Several states such as MP, UP,
Bihar and Rajasthan have sought people’s suggestions for exiting the lockdown and activities to be allowed after May 18. Maharashtra has sought inputs from district collectors by Thursday. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar has already held consultation with all legislators on lockdown 4.
In MP, all district collectors and MLAs have been asked to collect the responses and submit them to the state by Thursday. Officials said most suggestions pertain to the home delivery of ration and money to the poor, opening of all grain markets fully and allowing more work under MGNREGA. MP home and health minister, Narottam Mishra said, “Lockdown restrictions will continue to be implemented strictly and relaxation will be as per the PM Narendra Modi’s direction.”