New Delhi : The Centre on Saturday announced extension of the nationwide lockdown till June 30, but along with phase-wise relaxations in restrictions like reopening of hotels and schools in non-containment zones.
The gradual relaxations in lockdown restrictions will be put in effect in three phases.
"In areas outside containment zones, all activities will be permitted except the following, with the stipulation of following standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW), in a phased manner," read a Ministry of Home Affairs order addressed to all Chief Secretaries and different departments of the Centre.
In Phase 1, all religious places will be thrown open in non-containment zones from June 8. Hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services and even shopping malls will be allowed to reopen in the non-containment zones.
However, the Health Ministry will issue SOPs for such activities after due consultation with ministries and departments concerned. That is aimed to ensure social distancing and stop the spread of the virus.
"We welcome the government's decision to reopen hotels. We are excited and prepared to host guests with the new sanitised stay experience. At OYO, our topmost priorities are maintaining health, hygiene and well-being of our guests and staff. Right from our app to hotel teams, we are working to ensure proper sanitisation of hotels as well as maintaining social distancing with the guests. We are displaying a ‘Sanitised Stays' tag for properties that clear background audit checks for sanitisation, hygiene, and protective equipment. We along with our asset partners, look forward to delivering a safe, secure and comfortable experience for our guests," said Ritesh Agarwal, Founder and Group CEO, OYO Hotels & Homes.
In phase 2, schools, colleges, educational training institutes will be thrown open. But they will be done only after consulting state governments and UT administrations, which in turn may hold further consultation with parents, before doing so.
"Based on the feedback, a decision on the reopening of these institutions will be taken in June 2020," said the guidelines that came along with the MHA order.
The Health Ministry will prepare an SOP for this as well.
In phase 3, "based on the assessment of the situation", dates for resumption of international air service operation will be decided, except as permitted by the MHA.
In what may come as a great news for daily commuters, metro services, cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and even auditoriums as well as assembly halls may also be allowed to function from a certain date, provided the situation allows the Centre to do so.
In phase 3, the government is likely to take a call on allowing social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural or religious functions or large congregations.
However, the government has made one thing clear that all these activities will be allowed only in non-containment zones.
The Centre also said that all decisions pertaining to phase 3 like reopening of gyms and metro services will depend much on the situation at that given point in time.
For a population of 130 crore reeling under over 2-month lockdown, Saturday's announcement comes as a pleasant surprise.