Lockdown extended until May 31, with more relaxations; Markets open lower
The fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown begins today, with the Centre issuing a notification in this regard on Sunday, extending the curbs for two more weeks, until May 31.
The Union Home Ministry said in a statement that the lockdown curbs in place since March 25 have helped considerably in containing the spread of the novel coronavirus, and it has thus been decided to further extend the lockdown restrictions until May 31.
But, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in his address to the nation on Tuesday night, this phase of the lockdown is going to be different from the previous three phases.
Accordingly, the Home Ministry issued guidelines, authorising states and union territories to categorise red, green and orange zones as per the coronavirus situation, while taking into consideration the parametres notified by the Union Health Ministry.
Under the fresh guidelines, the Home Ministry also approved the resumption of app-based cab services and sanctioned the functioning of all shops, markets and commercial establishments except those in malls. However, local authorities will have to ensure that shops and markets open with staggered timings, so that social distancing is followed.
All shops will also have to ensure six-feet distance among customers and also not allow more than five people at a time, the Centre said in its notification.
The government eased restrictions on private offices that were previously allowed to function with 33 per cent staff strength.
Cinema halls, gymnasiums and swimming pools will remain closed. While sport complexes and stadia will be permitted to open, spectators will not be permitted.
Another major easing of rules is that inter-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses are allowed with mutual consent of states and union territories involved. However, all domestic and international flights remain shut, except for those allowed by the Home Ministry for security and medical purposes. All Metro rail services across the country will remain suspended till May 31, and schools and colleges will remain shut.
The statement further said that night curfew will continue to remain in force on the movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, between 7 pm and 7 am.
India has crossed the 95,000-mark in the number of coronavirus cases as it recorded its highest-ever spike in COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours. The country witnessed 5,242 fresh coronavirus cases and 157 related deaths since Sunday, bringing the total to 96,169, including 56,316 active cases, 36,824 cured/discharged/migrated cases and 3,029 fatalities. Of the total deaths linked to the virus, 120 died in the last 24 hours.
Meanwhile, Indian benchmarks opened on a weak note today despite a rise in Asian peers after the nationwide lockdown was extended till May 31 to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, special economic stimulus measures announced by Union Finance Minister on Sunday failed to cheer up the markets.
BSE 30-share barometer Sensex fell below its crucial 31,000-mark to trade at 30,915, down 183 points or 0.59 per cent, while NSE 50-share index Nifty breached the psychological level of 9,100 and was ruling at 9,074, down 63 points and 0.69 per cent,
Sensex was driven lower by banking stocks, with HDFC Bank, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, HDFC, and Kotak Bank being the top index losers at the opening.