Unlockdown 1.0: Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) Guidelines

Lockdown measures to contain the spread of COVID-19 has been in force in the country since 24 March 2020.

On 17 May 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), under the orders of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA), vide Order No. 40-3/2020-DM-I(A) issued guidelines for the fourth phase of lockdown measures to be taken by the Ministries/ Departments of Government of India, State/ UT Governments and State/ UT Authorities for further containment of COVID-19 in India, which was directed to be in force up to 31 May 2020.

On 30 May 2020, the NDMA, pursuant to Section 6(2)(i) of the Disaster Management Act, 2005, has further directed the MHA to issue orders:

(a) Extending the lockdown in Containment Zones up to 30 June 2020; and
(b) Re-opening prohibited activities in a phased manner in areas outside Containment Zones.

In light of the above, the MHA issued the following guidelines on 30 May 2020 (Order):

  1. Re-opening of activities in areas outside Containment Zones:

The Order primarily permits all activities in areas outside Containment Zones. However, certain specific activities are permitted subject to the Standing Operating Procedures (SOPs) that is to be prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). These specific activities are proposed to be permitted in three phases:

(i) Phase I:

The Order allows the following activities from 8 June 2020:
(a) Religious places and places of worship;
(b) Hotels, restaurants and hospitality services;
(c) Shopping malls.

(ii) Phase II:

Schools, colleges, educational/ training/ coaching institutions etc are proposed to be opened after consultations with States/ UTs, after due deliberations with parents and other stakeholders. Based on such discussions, a decision in this regard is proposed to be taken in the month of July 2020.

(iii) Phase III:

Dates for resuming the following activities is proposed to be decided based on evaluation of the extent of spread and containment of the situation:
(a) International air travel of passengers, except as permitted by MHA;
(b) Metro Rail;
(c) Cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls etc;
(d) Social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large congregations.

The State/ UTs, based on assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities or impose any restrictions as deemed necessary, outside the Containment Zones.

  1. Lockdown in Containment Zones:

(a) The Order directs the District Authorities to demarcate the Containment Zones, on due consideration of the guidelines issued by the MoHFW;
(b) It also imposes continuation of the lockdown in such zones until 30 June 2020;
(c) Only essential activities are to be allowed in the Containment Zones;
(d) Strict perimeter control shall be imposed in such zones to ensure that there is no movement of people in and out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and maintenance of supply of essential goods and services;
(e) The Order also stipulates intensive contact tracing, house-to-house surveillance, and other clinical interventions.
(f) States and UTs may also identify Buffer zones outside the Containment Zones, where new cases are likely to occur. The Order allows the District authorities to exercise their discretion to impose restrictions within such buffer zones.

  1. Movement of Persons and goods:

(a) The Order prohibits restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. Separate permissions/ approvals as previously required for any such movements is not presently applicable.
(b) If a State/ UT, based on its assessment of the situation on account of public health reasons, proposes to regulate movement of persons, it may do so, by providing adequate publicity in advance of such regulations and procedures to be followed.
(c) States / UTs are also prohibited from restricting movement of any type of goods/ cargo for cross land-border trade under Treaties with neighbouring countries.
(d) Movement of the following persons are required to adhere to the respective SOPs:
(i) movement of person by train, issued vide Order dated May 11, 2020;
(ii) movement of Indian Nationals stranded outside the country and of specified persons to travel abroad, issued vide Order dated May 5, 2020;
(iii) sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers, issued vide Order dated April 21, 2020; and
(iv) domestic passenger air travel issued vide Order dated 21 May 2020.

  1. Other restrictions:

(i) Movement of individuals between 9.00pm and 5.00am shall continue to be prohibited throughout the country, except for essential activities.
(ii) Persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes.

  1. National Directives for COVID-19 Management:

The Order in its Annexure I has also issued revised directives to be followed throughout the country:

(i) Compulsory wearing of face cover in public places;
(ii) Maintenance of minimum distance of 6 feet in public places;
(iii) Shops to ensure physical distancing and prohibit entry of more than 5 persons at one time;
(iv) Large public gatherings are prohibited.
a) For marriage related gatherings, number of guests to not exceed 50.
b) For funeral related gatherings, number of persons to not exceed 20.
(v) Spitting in public places is punishable with fine as prescribed by the local authorities;
(vi) Consumption of liquor, paan, gutka, tobacco etc in public places is prohibited.
(vii) Workplace directives:
a) Work from home to be practised to the extent possible;
b) Staggering of work/ business hours to be followed in workplaces, shops, offices, markets, industrial and commercial establishments;
c) Provision of thermal screening, sanitizer, hand wash to be made at all entry and exit points and common areas;
d) Frequent sanitization of all points which come into human contact to be ensured;
e) Practising of social distancing by workers is to be ensured by all persons in charge of workplaces.