The Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India (“MHA”) has issued an updated order dated May 01, 2020 bearing No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) (“Order”) with the new guidelines on the measures to be taken by Ministries / Department of Government of India / States and State authorities for containing the spread of COVID-19. The Order and the new guidelines will come into effect from May 04, 2020 and will be valid for a period of two weeks i.e. till May 17, 2020.
Classification of Zones
As per the Order, the easing of the lockdown restrictions in the country will be applicable based on the risk profiling of the districts into red, orange and green zones (as defined in the Order and explained below).
A) Green zones: A green zone is a zone where there are no confirmed cases till date, or districts with no confirmed case in the last 21 days.
B) Red zones or hotspots: A red zone will be defined by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India (“MHFW”) taking into account total number of active cases, doubling rate of confirmed cases, extent of testing and surveillance feedback.
C) Orange zones: all zone that are neither red zones nor green zones will be classified as orange zones.
The classification of the zones will be updated by the MHFW on a weekly basis. The Order specifically states that each State/Union Territory may classify additional districts as red or orange zones but cannot lower the classification of any district. In red zones and orange zones, containment zones will be demarcated by states and district administrations where strict lockdown restrictions will apply.
As per the Order, within containment zones, there will be strict perimeter control and no movement of population in and out of containment zones, will be permitted except for medical emergencies and for the supply of essential goods and services. The Order requires 100% implementation of the Aarogya Setu application in containment zones.
Common Central Restrictions
Irrespective of the zone, as per the Order, the following activities continue to be prohibited:
- All domestic and international air travel except for medical or security purposes;
- Passenger movement by trains except security purposes or as permitted by MHA;
- Interstate bus transport except as permitted by MHA;
- Metro rail services;
- Interstate movement of individuals except for medical reasons or activities permitted by MHA;
- All educational institutions;
- Hospitality services other than those needed for frontline workers or stranded persons, or for quarantine;
- All cinema halls, shopping malls, gyms, sports complexes, swimming pools, assembly halls and similar places;
- All social, political and religious gatherings (please note that the annexure indicates that marriages and funerals can be held with limited participants and with social distancing);
- Religious places of worship will not be open to public and religious congregations remain prohibited.
The Order additionally imposes the following conditions irrespective of the zone:
Imposition of a curfew and prohibition of movement of individuals for non-essential activities from 7 pm to 7 am;
Condition that persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below 10 years are required to stay at home, unless there is a health-related issue or to meet essential requirements;
Opening of outpatient departments and medical clinics (except in containment zones) is permitted with social distancing norms.
Activities in Red Zones
As per the Order, the following activities are permitted in the red zones (outside containment zones) with restrictions as imposed by the authorities:
- Movement of individuals and vehicles for permitted activities. Four wheelers will have a maximum of 2 passengers besides the vehicle driver and two wheelers will be permitted to ply with only one rider with no pillion.
- Industrial establishments in urban areas: only the following are permitted – SEZs, EOUs, industrial estates and industrial townships with access control; manufacturing units of essential goods including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw materials and intermediates, production units which require continuous process and their supply chain, manufacturing of IT hardware, jute industry, manufacturing units of packaging material.
- All industrial activities permitted in rural areas.
- Construction in urban areas – only in situ construction and construction of renewable energy projects. All construction activities are permitted in rural areas.
- Shops selling essential goods in markets and market complexes permitted to be operational. All standalone shops permitted for both essential and non-essential goods.
- E-commerce activities will be permitted only for essential goods.
- Private offices can operate with 33% strength as per requirement, with remaining persons working from home.
The following activities are prohibited in red zones: Cycle rickshaws, auto rickshaws, taxis and cab aggregators, intra district and inter district buses, barber shops, spas and salons.
Activities in Orange Zones
As per the Order, inter district and intra district plying of buses will not be permitted in orange zones.
In orange zones, cabs and cab aggregators will be permitted to operate with one driver and two passengers. Inter district movement of individuals and vehicles will be permitted for permitted activities with four wheeler vehicles having a maximum two passengers besides the driver.
Activities in Green Zones
All activities will be permitted except those prohibited in all zones. Buses may operate with 50% seating and bus stations will be permitted to operate at 50% capacity.
The Order permits inter-state movement of goods/cargo, including empty trucks.
All other activities will be permitted, which are not specifically prohibited/permitted with restrictions in the various zones. However, the concerned State/Union Territories may allow only select activities from out of the permitted activities with restrictions as necessary based on their assessment of the situation.
The State/ Union Territories are not permitted to dilute the guidelines issued and are required to strictly enforce the same.
In addition to the standard operating procedures issued by the MHA earlier, Annexure I of the Order sets out certain directives which are required to be followed in public places and in workplaces for reducing the spread of COVID-19. Some of the directives are set out below:
- All persons are compulsorily required to wear face masks in public places and in all workplaces which are permitted to re-open their office premises.
- Employers are required to ensure that adequate supply of face masks is available to accommodate all employees and workers who are present in the workplace. Employers are required to ensure that social distancing as per the guidelines of the MHFW is strictly followed at all times at the workplace and in company transport. Employers may implement these norms by ensuring adequate gaps between shifts; and by staggering lunch breaks of staff.
- All areas in the premises of the workplace which come into human contact (ex. door handles) are required to be frequently sanitized/ disinfected.
- Employers are required to ensure that persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, and pregnant women opt in for work from home policies and are not required to physically report to the workplace.
- Employers (public or private) are required to ensure that all employees and workers of their establishment are using the Arogya Setu app.
- Employers are required to avoid large physical meetings.
- A list of hospitals/ clinics in the vicinity of the workplace is required to be displayed at the workplace at all times. Any employee who is showing symptoms of COVID-19 is required to be immediately sent to such facilities for a medical check-up. Employers are required to earmark designated quarantine areas in the workplace for isolating employees who are showing symptoms of COVID-19 till they are safely moved to the medical facilities.
- Special transportation facility is required to be arranged for employees/ workers wherever the commute by personal/ public transport system is not feasible. Such special transportation facility is required to ensure compliance with the social distancing guidelines.
- Employers are required to take up intensive communication and training on good hygiene practices.