The nationwide lockdown, which was put in place on March 25, will complete its fourth extension tomorrow, posing a compelling question: whether Lockdown 5 is necessary. Unlike the other occasions before the extension of the lockdown, this time it was Union home minister Amit Shah — not Prime Minister Narendra Modi — who talked to the CMs and sought their views on an extension of the ongoing lockdown.
The Centre is learned to have come up with a roadmap of an exit plan from the crisis in its fourth extension of the restrictions ‘5.0’. This may allow malls and restaurants to reopen and limit restrictions only in containment zones.
Other activities expected to get the government nod could include movement of Delhi Metro and the opening of more markets. There is a possibility of allowing religious places to function. But social distancing norms, use of face cover, and Aarogya Setu mobile app would be the key entry tickets everywhere.
However, education institutes are supposed to function online only in the further extension expected to cover a minimum of 10 days as the lockdown 4.0 ends on May 31.
The new guidelines for the extended lockdown, however, will be comparatively much stricter for 13 worst COVID-19-hit cities. These cities are considered the worst COVID-19-affected locations and form about 70 percent of the positive cases in the country.
The 13 focus cities are Mumbai, Chennai, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Thane, Pune, Hyderabad, Kolkata and adjoining Howrah, Indore, Jaipur, Jodhpur and Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur. The last two cities are from Tamil Nadu. However, Maharashtra is the only state with three worst-hit cities in India.
So lockdown 5.0, which will be in place until June 15, will be more about a staggered opening of activities, maintaining hygiene and social distancing.
Sources in the governments suggested that it would be a “different fight” in the Lockdown 5 against the deadly virus which has so far infected over 1.65 lakh people and killed 4,706 Indians. The country ranks 9th in the world in the context of highly COVID-19-affected countries.
From June 1, municipal corporations would decide if residential colonies, mohallas, municipal wards or police-station areas, municipal zones, towns could be designated as containment zones.
Amid various suggestions by states, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is learned to have demanded lockdown extension but with restrictions with permission to open restaurants. Most states reportedly talked about the extension of the lockdown with permission to open more activities in the next phase.
Train Services: The Indian Railways has already announced 100 pairs of special passenger trains from June 1. Special guidelines have been issued for the ticket checking staffs as well. More passenger trains will be added. Offline ticket booking, tatkal ticket booking have already been allowed earlier, which will continue.
Flights Services: Domestic flight services began from May 25. Some new routes may get added. But it’s unlikely that the state governments will allow more arrivals or departures. So, there will be no change regarding that.
Metro: The MHA is likely to allow metro services from June 1. But the state governments will be the final authority in this case. Apart from Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru are also gearing up to resume metro services during lockdown 5.0.
Shopping malls, restaurants: Several cities have already started opening shopping malls. Restaurants have also opened for takeaways only. More shops will open. Restaurants may also open maintaining social distancing in seating arrangements.
Gyms, swimming pools
It’s unlikely that gyms and swimming pools will be allowed to open as they pose a greater risk of infection.
States will be given the authority. West Bengal has already announced that religious places will open from June 1.
Schools and other educational institutes will open in the next phase — not in Lockdown 5 But teachers and other staff may get asked to come to the school during Lockdown 5 to begin preparations for the reopening of the classes.