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Partial relaxation of lockdown from April 20

Partial relaxation of lockdown from April 20

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the national lockdown, the Centre today issued a set of stringent guidelines aimed at restarting economic activities from April 20. Modi extended the lockdown till May 3 but added that from April 20, depending on the progress made in containing the spread of the coronavirus, economic activities in several sectors will be allowed to restart amid worries of a sharp slowdown as Barclay’s slashed India’s growth projection to nil from 2.5 per cent for calendar year 2020.

According to rating agency ICRA, India’s growth rate could be anywhere between -1 per cent and 1 per cent in 2020-21.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), in its detailed guidelines, said that activities in several key sectors such as agriculture, mining, construction, oil and gas, coal and micro small and medium enterprises (MSME) will be allowed to restart.

The MHA, however, said that while travel by rail, road, and air will be prohibited till May 3. Malls, theatres and hotels will also remain shut.

In a major relief to the daily wage earners, the worst hit by this lockdown, the government has allowed construction of roads, irrigation projects, and buildings from April 20.

The Centre also said that agriculture and related activities will remain fully operational.

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, " the guidelines read.

Besides, food processing units located at rural areas and manufacturing facilities of all essential goods, including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw material, and intermediates can also resume operations. Other industrial establishments with access control in Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and Export Oriented Units (EoUs), industrial estates, and industrial townships have been allowed to operate too.

However, this comes with a caveat. These establishments will have to make arrangements for their staff to stay within the premises “as far as possible” or make arrangements at nearby places.

The organizations have been stipulated to arrange for transportation of their workers. Also, companies will have to adhere to strict norms of regular temperature screening, social distancing, sanitization, pick up and drop among others. Importantly, it has made medical insurance for workers mandatory.

The guidelines also stressed the use of the Arogyasetu app by employees engaged both with the private and public sector. The app helps in alerting users if she comes in close contact with someone suffering from the disease.

Many companies including IT, IT-enabled services (ITeS), and e-commerce will have to work with up to 50 per cent staff strength.

“All work places shall have adequate arrangements for temperature screening and provide sanitizers at convenient places,” the MHA said.

Work places must have a gap of one hour between shifts and will have to stagger lunch breaks of staff, to ensure social distancing. People who are above 65 years of age and those persons with co-morbidities must be encouraged to work from home. Besides, parents of children below the age of five too may be encouraged to work from home. The guidelines have even specified that not more than two to four people should be allowed to enter a lift at the same time.

While all organizations will now have to sanitize their work places between shifts, large meetings have been prohibited.

A State Bank of India report earlier suggested that the total cost of the lockdown could be a whopping Rs 8.03 lakh crore..