The government has released a new list of activities and services that will be functional from April 20 in parts of the country least affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
The revised list – another was released this week – includes health services (inclusive of AYUSH), agriculture and horticultural activities, fishing (marine and inland), plantation activities (tea, coffee and rubber with maximum of 50 per cent of workers) and animal husbandry.
It also includes financial and social services sectors and commercial and private establishments like print and electronic media and hotels, homestays and small lodges accommodating tourists and persons stranded by the lockdown.
These activities are meant to “mitigate hardship to the public” but will only be allowed “based on strict compliance to existing guidelines”, the government cautioned, adding that states and union territories were directed to “ensure preparations with regard to Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for social distancing in offices, workplaces and factories”.
Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted a list of activities to be allowed, noting that these will not be allowed in containment zones.
Here is a list of what will remain open all over India with effect from 20th April 2020.
This will NOT be applicable in the containment zones.
— Ravi Shankar Prasad (@rsprasad) April 18, 2020
The government, for whom a Group of Ministers (GoM) held a crucial meeting today chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, has said that easing of restrictions will be in accordance with Home Ministry guidelines released on April 15. The GoM also said respective state governments will have final say on the matter of permissions and can impose harsher restrictions, if the need calls for it.
The earlier list included the sale of mobile phones, television sets, refrigerators, laptops, clothes and stationery items for schoolchildren sold through e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart and Snapdeal. Delivery vans will, however, need permission to operate, the government added.
The list also included activities from non-banking finance corporations and micro-finance institutions that were marked as essential services.
Coconut, spice bamboo, areca nut and cocoa plantations, and forest produce by scheduled tribes had also been added to the list.
Construction in rural areas of water supply and sanitation and laying of power lines and telecom optical fibres and cables will also be allowed, according to the notification put out by the home ministry.
Guidelines on re-opening certain sectors and allowing some economic activities – in districts that have not been declared COVID-19 hotspots – come after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the lockdown to May 3. That decision was taken after a four-hour video conference with 13 chief ministers, who pointed to the impact of the lockdown on the economy.
Acknowledging the request, PM Modi said: “In my first address I had said, ‘Jaan hai to jahaan hai (If there is life, the world will exist)’. We must now look at ‘Jaan bhi, jahaan bhi (life and the world)”.
The total lockdown has been credited with saving lakhs of lives – the centre has claimed 8.2 lakh could have been infected otherwise – but it has also hit the economy hard; the IMF (International Monetary Fund) said it expects the economy to grow by only 1.9 per cent this year.
India has over 14,000 cases of the novel coronavirus and 480 deaths have been linked to the virus.