Home >News >India >Key metros scramble to reopen as nationwide lockdown curbs ease

NEW DELHI : A day after the central government extended the nationwide lockdown till 31 May with fewer curbs, states began reopening cities, except Maharashtra where a coronavirus pandemic continues to rage in Mumbai.

The strict lockdown that began on 25 March has shut all non-essential activity, crushing lives and livelihoods, even as total covid-19 cases crossed 100,000.

In the fourth phase of lockdown, which began on Monday, the central government has permitted states to decide on zones and open state borders with mutual consent.

“We need to learn how to live with corona," Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal said. “There cannot be a permanent lockdown. This two-month period was used to prepare our infrastructure for the disease. Now, it is time to focus on opening our economy."

In Delhi, public transport will be allowed to operate with limited capacity. Autos and cycle-rickshaws can ply with one passenger. “All vehicle drivers have to ensure that the vehicle is disinfected after each passenger. Carpooling will not be allowed for aggregators. Buses will start but with 20 people and there will be temperature checks," Kejriwal said. The movement of vehicles and passengers is allowed, but limited to two people in a car and one on a bike.

Construction workers living in Delhi can return to work, but not those coming from other states. Offices are free to open, but work-from-home should be preferred. Restaurants can open only for home delivery.

Shops in markets will open on an odd-even basis except essential shops, which will can open daily. Industry can restart, but with staggered timings. Containment zones will only have essential services.

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray said there will be relaxations only in the state’s green zones.

“Cases are rising. We have not broken the chain yet. We are still trying. Can’t afford easing yet... We are ramping up facilities," he said.

None of the central relaxations announced on Sunday will apply to the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which includes the city and many of its suburbs in the red zone; the strict curbs will continue. Earlier in the day, the Mumbai Police warned of strong action against violators.

“Gentle Reminder Mumbaikars. Mumbai being a RED ZONE, is yet to see any relaxations from earlier rules, under lockdown 4.0," Mumbai Police commissioner Param Bir Singh tweeted.

However, once the latest phase of the lockdown ends on 31 May, Maharashtra is likely to implement a ‘granular’ lockdown in MMR and Pimpri-Chinchwad, Pune’s extended city limits, a government official aware of the plans said. The government is considering a lockdown model that is more fluid —even at the street level.

Karnataka, which hosts the country’s Silicon Valley at Bengaluru, reopened public and private bus transport, parks, hair salons and even roadside stores outside containment zones.

“Strict lockdown measures will be followed in containment zones and economic activity will be permitted in other areas," chief minister B.S.Yediyurappa said on Monday. He said unless necessary, people from other states such as Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Kerala will not be allowed to enter Karnataka.

In Tamil Nadu, authorities allowed industrial units to reopen. Industries in urban areas except in Greater Chennai police limits and in containment zones can now restart, a government statement said. Those with more than 100 workers can only have 50% attendance, and those with less than 50 employees can have a 100% workforce, it said.

Bus services can also resume subject to social distancing norms in 25 districts, which includes major cities such as Coimbatore and Salem—except capital Chennai.

The Telangana government allowed all businesses outside containment zones to reopen from Tuesday, including its capital Hyderabad. Inter-state bus transport remains suspended, but within districts, buses can ply. Cabs can operate with up to three passengers. Those who do not wear a mask in public will be fined 1,000.

Pretika Khanna in Delhi; M.K. Nidheesh and Sharan Poovanna in Bengaluru; Kalpana Pathak in Mumbai; and Yunus Lasania in Hyderabad contributed to this story.

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