Guidelines are out for Unlock 3.0, the third phase of India’s emergence from its lockdown. Gyms and yoga centres outside covid containment zones can reopen from 5 August, but metro services, bars, cinema halls, educational institutes and other venues of mass gathering must stay shut. So says the government.
Some had expected cinema halls to start screening movies, since malls had been allowed to let customers in. But better sense has prevailed. Closed halls where elbows can bump in the dark do not promise much safety from coronaviral infection, even if elbow bumps have found their way into movies. Airborne virus contagion remains a risk, and that rules out theatre-going. The same logic could apply to bars, where the clink of beer mugs could potentially slip into cheery slaps on the backs of merry makers with alcohol-impaired senses. Allowing students onto school and college campuses would be safer, in theory, given the pursuit of education these individuals are engaged in, but then again, many of them treat this engagement as optional. Gyms and yoga centres may not have a superior record of achieving their stated aims, but at least social distances seem easier to maintain in these places.
In all, the latest directives of the government are reasonable, though India’s corona curve doesn’t seem to be a function of State-led efforts. The country has crossed a tally of 1.5 million corona-infection cases and there seems no sign of a slowdown on this count, even though our economy may now be in its worst crisis on record. Some critics have even argued that it’s time to drop all restrictions and pretensions, and simply let citizens, workplaces and businesses work out safety norms for themselves. There may be some merit in this. But government advisories could still be helpful.