An area in Delhi being sealed by the police as part of the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, on April 14, 2020.
An area in Delhi being sealed by the police as part of the measures to contain the COVID-19 pandemic in the country, on April 14, 2020.|IANS
National

MHA issues revised guidelines on lockdown, permits select activities from April 20

NetIndian News Network

New Delhi, April 15, 2020

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) today issued consolidated revised guidelines regarding the lockdown measures to be taken by the Central and State Governments for containment of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in the country, permitting select additional activities from April 20 to mitigate hardships to the public.

An official press release said transportation of goods will be permitted without any distinction of essential or non-essential. Farming operations, including procurement of agricultural products, agriculture marketing through notified "mandis" and direct and decentralized marketing, manufacture, distribution and retail of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds; activities of marine and inland fisheries; animal husbandry activities, including the supply chain of milk, milk products, poultry and live-stock farming; and tea, coffee and rubber plantations will be allowed to be functional.

To provide an impetus to the rural economy, industries operating in rural areas, including food processing industries; construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas; works under MNREGA, with priority to irrigation and water conservation works; and operation of rural Common Service Centres (CSCs) have all been allowed. These activities will create job opportunities for rural labor, including the migrant labor force, the release said.

Manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control have been permitted in SEZs, EoUs, industrial estates and industrial townships after implementation of SOP for social distancing.

Manufacture of IT hardware and of essential goods and packagings is also allowed. Coal, mineral and oil production are permitted activities.

"It is expected that the industrial and manufacturing sectors will see a revival with these measures, and will create job opportunities while maintaining safety protocols and social distancing. At the same time, the important components of the financial sector, e.g., RBI, banks, ATMs, capital and debt markets as notified by SEBI and insurance companies will also remain functional, with a view to provide enough liquidity and credit support to the industrial sectors," the release said.

"Digital economy is critical to the services sector and is important for national growth. Accordingly, e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres for Government activities, and online teaching and distance learning are all permitted activities now," it said.

The revised guidelines also permit all health services and the social sector to remain functional; public utilities to function without any hindrance; the supply chain of essential goods to operate without any hindrance; and, important offices of Central and State Governments and local bodies to remain open with required strength.

"In sum, the revised consolidated guidelines are aimed at operating those sectors of the economy which are critical from the perspective of rural and agricultural development and job creation, while maintaining strict protocols in areas where safety is paramount to contain the spread of COVID-19 in the country," the release said.

"However, these additional activities would be operationalized by States/ Union Territories (UTs)/ District Administrations based on strict compliance to the existing guidelines on lockdown measures. Before operating these relaxations, States/ UTs/ District Administrations shall ensure that all preparatory arrangements with regard to social distancing in offices, workplaces, factories and establishments, and other sectoral requirements are in place," the release said.

The consolidated revised guidelines would not apply in containment zones, as demarcated by States/ UTs/ District administrations. If any new area is included in the category of a containment zone, the activities allowed in that area till the time of its categorization as a containment zone would be suspended, except for those activities that are specifically permitted under the guidelines of Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), Government of India.

The activities permitted under the revised guidelines from April 20 will not be allowed within the containment zones. In these zones, no unchecked inward/ outward movement of population will be allowed, except for maintaining essential services, i.e., medical emergencies and law & order duties, and government business continuity.

Very strong containment measures will be implemented in the hotspot districts accounting for large number of COVID-19 cases or with fast growth of cases. Detailed guidelines on delineation of containment zones and containment measures have also been issued. Only essential services are to be permitted in these zones and strict perimeter control and strict restrictions on movement enforced.

The release said the permitted activities from April 20 are aimed at ensuring that agricultural and related activities remain fully functional, the rural economy functions with maximum efficiency, employment opportunities are created for daily wage earners and other members of the labour force, select industrial activities are allowed to resume their operations, with adequate safeguards and mandatory standard operating protocols (SOPs) and the digital economy.

At the same time, keeping the imperative of containing the spread of COVID-19 in the country, National Directives for COVID-19 management have been laid down, which shall be enforced by the District Magistrates through fines and penal action as prescribed in the Disaster Management Act, 2005.

MHA has directed all the Ministries/Departments of Government of India and State Governments/lJnion Territory Administrations to ensure the strict implementation of the consolidated revised guidelines.

The consolidated revised guidelines came a day after the Government announced yesterday that the 21-day nationwide lockdown, imposed on March 25 as a measure to contain the spread of the pandemic, would be extended for 19 days till May 3. This meant that the lockdown measures stipulated in the earlier Consolidated Guidelines of MHA would continue to remain in force upto May 3.

The guidelines also prescribe National Directives for COVID-19 management; SOPs for Social Distancing at offices, workplaces, factories and establishments; and, penalties for offences regarding violation of lockdown measures under relevant sections of Disaster Management Act 2005 and IPC, 1860.

While announcing the extension of the lockdown in a televised address to the nation yesterday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also declared that select necessary activities would be allowed to be opened up from April 20 in identified areas of the country.

"The objective of the revised guidelines is to consolidate the gains achieved during the first phase of lockdown and further slow down the spread of COVID-19 and at the same time provide relief to farmers, labourers and daily wage earners," the release said.

The activities prohibited across the country include travel by air, rail and road; operation of educational and training institutions; industrial and commercial activities; hospitality services; all cinema halls, shopping complexes, theatres, etc., all social, political and other events, and opening of all religious places/ places of worship for members of public, including religious congregations.

There are certain national guidelines like mandatory home-made face covers at work places and in public places, strong hygiene and health care measures like provision of sanitisers, staggered shifts, access control, thermal screening and imposing fines for spitting etc.

Penalties will be imposed for violation of the guidelines, the release said.

The Cabinet Secretary held a meeting today with Chief Secretaries and Directors General of Police (DGsP of all States to discuss ways of achieving smooth and effective implementation of the revised guidelines that were issued earlier in the morning today.

The Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, the Union Home Secretary and the Union Health Secretary were also present.

All Collectors, Superintendents of Police, Municipal Commissioners and Civil Surgeons also participated in the conference.

NNN

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