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Decision to extend curfew in Punjab to depend on prevailing situation: CM Amarinder Singh

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Punjab Chief Minister (CM) Amarinder Singh on Friday made it clear that any decision on extending the curfew beyond April 14 would depend on the prevailing situation.

The CM was reacting to reports in a section of the media quoting him as saying that he will not lift the curfew, imposed in the light of COVID-19 crisis, on April 14.

Amarinder said what he had said was that no firm decision or timeline could be committed at this juncture. Restrictions would have to continue as long as needed to save lives and save the state, he added.

Any decision on lifting or extending the curfew or lockdown in the state will be taken in the light of the situation that exists at the time, said Amarinder. It would depend entirely on how things are then, he said, adding that it was not possible to commit either way at this juncture, when the situation as dynamically evolving.

If things improve then there would be no need for such tight restrictions, said the Chief Minister. However, if the situation takes a turn for the worse, there would be no option with the government but to continue with controls, either through curfew or lockdown or any other necessary means, he added.

The CM, at the same time, assured the people of Punjab that his government would continue to take more and more steps to minimise the hardships suffered by them as a result of the curfew. Already, a lot of essential services that were initially locked down had been restored, he pointed out, citing the examples of banking, postal and courier, harvesting, etc.

The necessity for doctors, health staff and regular patients to take curfew passes had also been done away with.

Going forward, a lot more steps would be taken to further ease the lives of the citizens, irrespective of whether or not the curfew continues, said Amarinder.

Punjab was the first state in the country to impose curfew in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

The CM said while the move has helped to keep the spread of the Coronavirus under check, the state government would not allow itself to become complacent.

Amarinder said he had already directed the Health Department to prepare, on war footing, for any eventuality, including community spread of the pandemic.

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Unlock 1: Hair salons, all shops can open, no spas; Delhi borders sealed for a week, says Kejriwal

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With the Centre’s three-phase unlock plan — that will restrict curbs to containment zones — kicking in from today, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal announced that barber shops and salons will be allowed to reopen apart from whatever was permitted till now. However, spas will remain closed.

The chief minister also announced that all shops will be allowed to open from now on. So far, Delhi had been following odd-even rule for shops in markets.

Also, the state government has decided to lift restrictions on the number of passengers travelling in autos, e-rickshaws and other vehicles.

In autos, e-rickshaws and other vehicles, as per earlier orders, the number of passengers was fixed. Autos and e-rickshaws were allowed to carry only one passenger at a time while two passengers apart from the driver were allowed in cars.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, meanwhile, announced sealing of Delhi borders for one week, barring essential services.

Kejriwal said that a decision will be taken on the same after one week as per suggestions from the citizens.

“With borders opening up but Corona cases rising, can Delhi open its hospitals for treatment of people from across the country? Will it put pressure on capacity to handle Corona? Should Delhi’s hospitals be reserved for Delhi residents?” the chief minister asked seeking suggestions from the people by Friday 5 pm.

According to the Chief Minister, Delhi had 9,500 beds for COVID-19 patients. “I can guarantee, as your Chief Minister, there will be a bed if you or someone in your family is infected,” he said.

“Delhi hospitals should be reserved for people of Delhi. At the same time, Delhi belongs to the country, how can it refuse to treat anyone?” he asked.

Last Monday, Kejriwal had informed that 117 private hospitals have been asked to reserve 20 per cent beds for COVID-19 patients.

CM Kejriwal had on Saturday said that the national capital “cannot have a permanent lockdown”, even as he admitted that the city has been witnessing a surge in Coronavirus cases.

“We agree that the city has seen a huge spike in the number of Coronavirus cases. But we should not panic. The situation in Delhi would be worrying for me in two scenarios – if the number of deaths increase and if there’s a shortage of hospital beds,” the Chief Minister had said.

“A permanent lockdown is no solution. We have to move on with all the precautions,” Kejriwal added.

Although he termed the rising number of infections as a matter of concern, Kejriwal assured that the government is “fully prepared” and “four steps ahead” of the Coronavirus.

Delhi has so far recorded 19,844 cases and 473 deaths.

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Airlines must allot seats, try to keep middle space vacant: DGCA after SC’s ‘common sense’ rap

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The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday directed airlines to allot seats so that middle seats are kept vacant to the extent possible.

In a notification, the aviation regulator said that airlines should allot seats in a manner that the middle seat is kept vacant if passenger load and seat capacity permits.

However, if passenger load does not permit this kind of an arrangement, then the middle seat passenger has to be provided with protective equipment like a wrap around gown in addition to the three-layer mask and face shield.

The DGCA directions will come into effect from June 3.

As per the order, all passengers are to be provided with safety kits, which include three-layered surgical mask, face shield and sanitiser.

No meal or drinking water will be served on board except for health-related reasons.

The embarkation and disembarkation will be sequential and no passenger will be allowed to rush to the entry/exit gates. The DGCA has directed the airlines to ensure orderly entry and exit of passengers.

Flights have been asked to set the air-conditioning system in such a way that the air gets replaced at the shortest possible intervals.

The flights have to be regularly sanitised, but when there is no passenger on board.

Airlines have been directed to carry out health check-up of all crew regularly and all flying as well as cabin crew will have to be in full protective suits.

The directions come nearly a week after the Supreme Court pulled up Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India while hearing urgent petition filed by Centre and the national carrier against the Bombay High Court order to keep middle seats vacant in international flights carrying back stranded Indians.

“You should be worried about health of citizens more than health of airlines,” the court said and asked “Why social distancing norms wasn’t necessary in flights? Why centre seats should be booked for air travels?”

Meanwhile, the top court has allowed Air India to operate non-scheduled foreign flights with middle seats booking till June 6 after which those seats can’t be sold.

The Bombay High Court, as directed by the apex court, will hear the matter tomorrow.

The court, in its hearing on the matter, commented that it was “common sense” that social distancing is important.

“It is common sense that maintaining social distancing is important. Outside, there should be a social distancing of at least six feet, what about inside aircraft,” the CJI rapped Air India, which has been operating special flights under the Vande Bharat Mission to bring back Indians stranded abroad due to the Coronavirus lockdown.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the national carrier and the Centre, said that the “best practice is testing and quarantine and not seat difference”.

He further told the court that the decision not to have vacant middle seats was taken following a meeting held with experts.

CJI SA Bobde, however, quipped: “How can you say it will not affect passengers? Will the virus know it’s in the aircraft and it’s not supposed to infect?”

“The transmission will be there if you are sitting next to each other,” he added.

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had in May, while announcing the recommencement of domestic flights, made it clear that it would not be possible to keep the middle seat vacant.

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Ahead of lockdown 5.0, India reports highest spike in COVID-19 cases, tally at 1.82 lakh

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India’s coronavirus cases reached 1,82,143 on Sunday after 8,380 fresh cases were reported in the last 24 hours. The death toll due to the deadly virus reached  5,164. The highest rise in the cases comes as nation prepares for the  fifth lockdown which will come in effect from June 1.

The Ministry of Home Affairs released a set of guidelines for the fifth phase of a nationwide lockdown on Saturday, allowing hotels, restaurants and shopping malls to open, besides permitting all inter and intra-state movement of public and goods.

States, however, will have the freedom to enforce suitable restrictions if they deem necessary. International flights, Metro trains, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places shall remain out of bounds for now.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation in his monthly ‘Mann ki Baat’ programme. He is likely to discuss the new lockdown guidelines, and the one year anniversary of the BJP-led NDA government’s second term in power.

Globally, about 6 million people have been infected with coronavirus, and 3,66,875 people have lost their lives. The United States, at 1,03,353 deaths, is the worst-affected country.

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