Announcing new guidelines two days ahead of expiry of Unlock 2, the home ministry said schools, colleges and coaching institutes would continue to remain closed until August 31, a decision that followed extensive consultations with states and Union Territories. International air travel, except as permitted by the home ministry, will also remain on hold. Vande Bharat flights will continue and any further opening up of international air travel will be done in a calibrated manner.
Importantly, with the lifting of night curfew, restaurants and eateries can continue to remain open for dine-in customers till late though they still cannot serve liquor. Earlier, many restaurants had complained that the night curfew hours from 10pm were affecting their dinner-time business. The opening of gyms should allow a large of number of people, rendered jobless, to regain employment even if footfalls will be reduced due to social distancing and caution on part of patrons.
Metro rail services will not resume for now either. The Delhi government had favoured the reopening of the mass transport in the wake of a sharp fall in Covid-19 cases in the city.
Cinema halls, swimming pools, theatres, bars and assembly halls will need to wait re-opening, even though there are demands from cinema owners and industry associations to allow them to function from August 1. Operators have said they are ready to take measures like electro-static sheets and widespread use of sanitisers.
Social, political, sports, entertainment, academic and cultural functions as well as large congregations will remain barred as per Unlock 3 guidelines. This, even as Bhoomi Pujan for Ram temple at Ayodhya is scheduled for August 5, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi due to attend the same. As per reports, some 200 people are expected at the mega event.
As to how the Ayodhya event is to be orgnaised in view of the guidelines that bar religious gatherings, a source told TOI that while no separate direction or ‘dos and donts’ have been specified for August 5 or any other such occasion, things can be worked out with the help of the local administration which may “improvise” to ensure guidelines and health protocols are adhered to.
As regards activities that continue to be prohibited in non-containment zones, the home ministry said dates for opening these will be decided separately, based on assessment of the situation. States and UTs, meanwhile, are free to prohibit certain activities outside the containment zones as per own discretion.
With Independence Day due on August 15, the home ministry has allowed I-Day functions and ‘at-home’ functions to be held with due social distancing and adherence to health protocols such as wearing of masks.
The home ministry on Wednesday said National Directives on Covid-19 Management would continue to be followed throughout the country. These bar spitting as well as consumption of liquor, paan, gutka and tobacco in public places. There shall be no restriction on inter-state or intra-state movement of persons and goods. Persons above 65 years of age, children below 10 years, pregnant women and those with co-morbidities have been advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes.