NEW DELHI: The centre on Saturday clarified that the relaxations given to shops of non-essential items are only for standalone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complexes, not for shops in markets and shopping complexes in urban areas.
For rural areas, the government clarified, that the relaxation has been given to all shops except those in shopping malls.
The new relaxations, however, will not be applicable to hotspot areas or containment zones.
For urban areas, the order means that while small shops in non-market areas will be open, the big market places will continue to remain shut. The idea behind the move is to ensure crowds don't gather.
Relaxations have been given in areas where the footfall is not expected to be high and number of customers visiting these shops is limited, officials said.
The Union home ministry, which is supervising and monitoring the countrywide shutdown, also said that "sale by E-commerce companies will continue to be permitted for essential goods only."
The government made it clear that sale of liquor, tobacco and gutka have not been given relaxations and the sale of these items will continue to be prohibited as specified in the National Directives for COVID-19 Management.
The clarifications pertain to Friday’s late night order issued by the home ministry, through which it allowed shops selling all kinds of goods to open in specified areas.
The order was issued under Section 10(2) of the Disaster Management Act and the shops will have to function with 50 per cent worker strength, masks and maintaining social distancing will be mandatory.
The opening of neighbourhood shops is being seen as a relief to both shopkeepers and customers who have been under lockdown since March 24 to contain the spread of novel coronavirus.
There are a significant number of shops in residential areas in cities such as shops of stationeries, books, tailoring—which will be allowed to reopen.
On the relaxation given for shops in urban areas, the order said, "All shops, including neighborhood shops and standalone shops, shops in residential complexes, within the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities, registered under the Shops and Establishment Act of the respective State/UT, except shops in market complexes and multi-brand and single brand malls, with 50% strength of workers with wearing of masks and social distancing being mandatory."
On allowing the opening of shops in rural areas, the order said, "All shops registered under the Shops and Establishment Act of the respective State/UT. including shops in residential complexes and market complexes, except shops in multi-brand and single brand malis, outside the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities, with 50% strength of workers with wearing of masks and social distancing being mandatory."
The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) said it "welcomes the Union Home Ministry’s order allowing all state governments to allow opening of shops within the territory limits of Municipal Corporation or Municipality." It added that "now the state governments have to take decision in this regard and accordingly the shops can be open."
The lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 for a period of 21 days in a bid to combat the Coronavirus pandemic. It was further extended till May 3.
On April 15, the Union Home Ministry had issued revised guidelines for the second phase of shutdown and announced additional activities and more exemptions to be given to different people and services during the lockdown from April 20.