As the month of May draws to a close, India is looking to enter phase five of its nationwide lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The country first imposed restrictions on movement of people and sale of non-essential items on March 24. Since then, restrictions have gradually eased across the country, except in containment zones.
In the first indication that the lockdown may be extended, Goa Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant was quoted by local media on Friday as saying, “Held a telephonic conversation with Home Minister Amit Shah, lockdown likely to increase by 15 days.”
Meanwhile, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has announced the easing of curbs starting June 1, allowing places of worship to open with maximum ten persons present at a time, and prohibiting any major gathering or celebration of festivals. All offices in private and public sector will also be allowed to operate with a 100 per cent strength from June 8, the Chief Minister said, adding that social distancing has to be followed in all cases.
While the government is yet to issue guidelines for Lockdown 5.0, here is what we know:
* Air services: More travel routes are likely to open in Lockdown 5.0. At the moment, while the government has permitted airline companies to fly to any airport in the country, the decision has been left to operators depending on demand — in the last week, demand for non-metro routes has been significantly higher than metro routes.
As air travel resumed, the government had limited flights to one-third capacity of the decided summer schedule on routes connecting metros to metros and those connecting metros to non-metros with more than 100 departures a week.
With regard to international air travel, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri last week said “a good percentage” of flight could begin before August.
* Train services: The Railways has been operating Shramik Special trains for migrant labourers to return to their home states. Until May 28, 3,736 trains transported some 50 lakh stranded workers. Around 40 per cent of these trains ferried labourers from Gujarat and Maharashtra to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
From June 1, the Railways is looking to begin operating 100 pairs of mail/express trains, bookings for which have already begun. After this, the next set of train services is likely to have AC class services.
* Intra-state buses and metro services: Some states have already begun intra-state buses, like Odisha and Andhra Pradesh. Other states may follow suit after June 1. With regard to metros, services may begin in a limited manner, with lesser capacity, social distancing, longer stops at each station etc.
* Shops, markets, malls: Shops selling non-essential items were allowed to open when India entered the fourth phase of lockdown. Lockdown 5.0 could see more shops opening, even those in markets. There is no word yet on shopping malls. Many shops that have re-opened in market areas are operating on an odd-even basis.
* Gyms, movie theatres, religious places, salons: So far, gyms, theatres and religious places have been asked to remain closed.
Some cities have already allowed salons and beauty parlours to open with strict enforcement of guidelines like social distancing and wearing protective gear. These however are likely to continue remaining closed in containment areas.
* Schools: The HRD Ministry is working on guidelines for when schools reopen, The Indian Express reported. These guidelines could include older children of Classes 9, 10, 11, and 12 going back to school first; compulsory masks and social distancing; frequent sanitization of classrooms; prohibition of morning assemblies, among others.