We are now five unlocks into the COVID-19 crisis, but there is still a lot of confusion about what is allowed and what is not. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions:
First of all, what changed in the last unlock?
Last month the MHA allowed metro rails to resume, allowed functions and gatherings of up to 100 people, allowed bars and pubs to open and removed all interstate and intrastate movement restrictions. However, education institutions were told to remain closed, cinemas and entertainment parks were kept shut, and international travel too, except as permitted by the MHA, remained suspended.
What about public gatherings in Unlock 5?
As mentioned above, gatherings up to 100 people were allowed from last month. Now under Unlock 5, states and UTs have been given the flexibility to permit all functions and congregations beyond the ceiling of 100 persons from October 15. In closed spaces, a maximum of 50 per cent of hall capacity will be allowed with a ceiling of 200 people. To ensure that such gatherings do not spread the virus, states and UTs will issue detailed SOPs.
Will schools reopen?
Possibly. For reopening of schools and coaching institutions, states will take a call after 15th October in a graded manner and schools will have to follow SOPs. Schools that can conduct online classes successfully will be allowed to continue them as is. Regardless, students may only attend school with the written consent of the parents and attendance will not be enforced.
Can we go out and watch movies?
Yes, cinemas and theatres will be permitted to open with 50 per cent capacity and B2B exhibitions will also be allowed to open; SOPs are to be released by the Department of Commerce regarding the same. Even entertainment parks and other such places will also reopen from October 15.
What about swimming pools?
Swimming pools used for training of sportspersons will be permitted to open and SOPs regarding the same will be issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
Has interstate and/or international travel been allowed?
There is no restriction on interstate and intrastate movement of goods and people outside containment zones. However, restrictions on international travel, except those permitted by the MHA, will continue.
Is public transport up and running?
Over the last few months, public transport including metro and domestic flights have all been allowed to resume activities with strict safety guidelines.
What has changed for those living in containment zones?
Lockdown will continue in containment zones till October 31 and these zones will be demarcated by district authorities at the micro level. There will be strict measures imposed in containment zones and only essential activities will be allowed.
What about local lockdowns?
States and UTs will not be permitted to impose any local lockdown outside the containment zone without prior consultation with the Centre. Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have extended lockdown till October 31.
Does reopening mean it is safe to go outside again?
With India having over 6 million total Covid cases, this is as bad a time as any to stop being careful. Especially the vulnerable population — the elderly, people with comorbidities, pregnant women, children below the age of 10 — are still advised to stay at home. Delhi’s third sero-survey showed that 33 per cent of people have antibodies against Covid, which means about a third of the national capital has been exposed to the virus.
Is there a night curfew still in place?
No, night curfews were completely removed in Unlock 3 itself. As of now, there are no restrictions on the movement of individuals with regard to night curfew.
Will there be an Unlock 6?
Since Unlock 2 on June 29th, there has been a new ‘edition’ of unlocking at the end of every following month — Unlock 3 on July 29th, Unlock 4 on August 29th, and Unlock 5 on September 30th. Based on how certain restrictions are still in place with respect to containment zones, international travel, etc, another set of easing is likely to follow by the end of October.