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Lockdown extends till May 31, inter-state movement of buses allowed in non-containment zones: MHA

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Lockdown due to the nationwide spread of coronavirus extends till May 31 and the Ministry of Home Affairs has released guidelines giving the details of what is allowed and what’s not during the lockdown.

The National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has asked ministries departments of Government of India, state governments and state authorities to continue the lockdown till May 31 keeping in mind the spread of deadly coronavirus.

NDMA also directs the National Executive Committee (NEC) to issue modifications in the guidelines, as necessary keeping in view the need to open up economic activities while containing the spread of coronavirus.

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has issued guidelines on measures to be taken by Ministries/Departments of Government of India, State Governments/UT Governments & State/UT authorities for containment of COVID19.

According to the guidelines all domestic and international air travel of passengers, except for domestic medical services, domestic air ambulance and for security purposes or purposes as permitted by MHA to remain prohibited throughout the country.

The delineation of red, green, and orange zones will be decided by the respective State/Union Territory governments, after taking into consideration the parameters shared by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, MHA said.

“All cinema halls, shopping malls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places, shall continue to remain closed throughout the country till 31st May,” it said.

Night curfew, restriction to move outside between 7 pm to 7 am, will remain till May 31.

MHA in its guidelines has mentioned using Aarogya Setu app during the lockdown period. Prime Minister Narendra Modi in all his five addresses to the nation after the coronavirus pandemic spread has been vocal on using Aarogya Setu app.

Aarogya Setu app identifies the early identification of potential risk of infection, this acts as a shield for individuals and the community, said MHA.

It also encouraged employers to ensure the use of Aarogya Setu app at the workplace.

MHA in its guidelines advised all persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, shall stay at home till 31st May, except for essential and health purposes.

“State/UT Governments shall not dilute the lockdown guidelines issued under the Disaster Management Act 2005, in any manner,” Home Ministry said in its guidelines.

“All other activities will be permitted except those which are specifically prohibited under these guidelines. However, in containment zones, only essential activities shall be allowed, as mentioned earlier,” the guidelines said.

Sports complexes and stadia can open, however, spectators will not be allowed, said MHA.

According to reports, Union Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Gauba will hold a video conference with State Chief Secretaries at 9 pm today discussing the measures regarding the lockdown.

Earlier in the day, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray had extended the Coronavirus lockdown till May 31 with the state seeing no respite from the pandemic. After Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu too had extended the COVID-19 lockdown in the state till May 31.

In his address to the nation on May 12, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said that the extended lockdown will come with modifications allowing more economic activities.

PM had also announced a Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus for Covid-19 to help the crippling economy as well as migrant workers due to the lockdown. He had given the tagline ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India) to encourage in-house productivity of the country.

In order to strengthen his claim, he has allotted fund for MSME sector as well as the agriculture sector among others.

During the fifth and final tranche of the Rs 20 lakh crore stimulus, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman provided major reforms in the education sector by announcing online classes, allowing 5 per cent borrowing to states which was earlier 3 per cent, decriminalizing seven compoundable offences under the Companies Act, debts due to Covid not to be included under ‘default’ category among others were some of the important announcement made.

In the other tranches, Nirmala Sitharaman has given details of transformation in MSMEs, agriculture, defence apart from food guarantee to migrant workers. The government assured 5 kg food grain per person and one kg channa per family either they are or not the beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act, 2013 or hold a state ration card.

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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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