COVID-19: States further ease restrictions as Unlock 4 commences; Bars reopen, buses ply

Many states have come out with their set of rules related to relaxations permitted outside the containment zones, though they were by and large following the Centre's August 29 guidelines.
Though malls have opened it's door to public low footfall seen in various malls across the city in Chennai. (Photo | Debadatta Mullick/EPS)
Though malls have opened it's door to public low footfall seen in various malls across the city in Chennai. (Photo | Debadatta Mullick/EPS)

CHENNAI/BHUBANESWAR/LUCKNOW: As the Unlock 4 commenced on Tuesday, most of the states further eased the coronavirus-induced restrictions on the movement of people and functioning of commercial establishments like bars and hotels, while major temples like the Madurai Meenakshi and the Konark too reopened, with mandatory COVID-19 precautions.

Many states have come out with their set of rules related to relaxations permitted outside the containment zones, though they were by and large following the Centre's August 29 guidelines on prohibiting activities of schools, colleges, cinema halls, etc till September 30.

Punjab has decided to continue with the lockdown restrictions in September, while others states like Himachal Pradesh are persisting with the curbs on inter-state transport.

Some others like Delhi are yet to come out with the guidelines for this month.

Also, some states announced the lifting of local or weekend lockdowns, except in containment zones, following a direction by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

After remaining closed for more than five months, bars and restaurants opened in states like Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.

The Centre had allowed reopening of bars under the Unlock 4 guidelines.

State-run buses were running again in Tamil Nadu capital Chennai, while places of worship, parks, shopping malls, hotels and clubs too reopened across the state.

On June 1, after a hiatus of 68 days, government-run buses resumed operations in a limited manner in Tamil Nadu except Chennai, Chengelpet, Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur.

Out of the fleet strength of about 22,000 buses in state-run transport corporations, 6,090 were operated on Tuesday, but very less number of commuters were seen people were seen taking public transport, according to officials.

Though the government had allowed the opening of small places of worship since July, larger religious places including the Madurai Meenakshi temple and Ramanathaswamy temple in Rameswaram opened on Tuesday.

Devotees were allowed inside after a temperature check and sanitising their hands at the entrance.

Steps were taken to ensure that social distancing was maintained inside the temple premises, authorities said.

Parks became lively again with the return of morning walkers and joggers.

The Karnataka government has allowed bars, pubs, clubs and restaurants in the state to serve liquor from Tuesday with 50 per cent of their seating capacity.

There were restrictions on serving liquor since March, when the lockdown was enforced first, and only takeaways were allowed at these establishments.

The order by the Excise Commissioner said such relaxations were already in place in states like Assam, Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan.

Also, the city's main markets, K R Market and Kalasipalya, that had remained shut for some time following a spike in coronavirus cases in the city were allowed to open.

The Sun Temple at Konark in Odisha's Puri district, a major tourist attraction, was on Tuesday re-opened for visitors after remaining closed for more than five months, an official said.

Though other ASI protected monuments in the state like Raja Rani temple, Udaygiri, Khandagiri, Lalitgiri Buddhist monuments were opened earlier, the Konark temple received visitors only on September 1, Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) Superintending Officer Arun Kumar Mallick told PTI.

Goa Airport on Tuesday announced it had done away with a rule which laid down that domestic travellers must carry COVID-19 negative certificates on arrival, as apart of easing of restrictions under 'Unlock 4'.

In Maharashtra, restriction on inter-district movement of persons and goods has been lifted and e-pass will not be required for undertaking such a journey from September 2.

At the same time, the government said the general lockdown in the state will continue till September 30 as part of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19.

It also raised permitted attendance in its offices and has allowed hotels and lodges to operate at 100 per cent capacity from September 2.

The state government has announced that there shall be no restriction on inter-district movement of persons and goods, including those for cross-land border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries from September 2.

The government has also allowed passenger movement by private bus/minibus and other operators.

On August 29, the Union Home Ministry had issued the Unlock 4 guidelines under which metro trains will be allowed to resume services from September 7 in a graded manner, while political, social and religious congregations of up to 100 people will be permitted from September 21.

However, schools, colleges and other educational and coaching institutions will remain closed for students till September 30, with some relaxations for students of classes 9 to 12.

The latest easing of restrictions came as India's COVID-19 tally mounted to 36,91,166, while recoveries surged to 28,39,882, pushing the recovery rate to 76.

94 per cent, according to Union Health Ministry data on Tuesday.

The death toll due to COVID-19 climbed to 65,288.

The Centre had said that state governments should not impose any local lockdown outside containment zones without prior consultation with the Centre.

The Madhya Pradesh government has announced withdrawal of statewide lockdown on Sundays following the direction.

Social events, political rallies and sports events with a cap of 100 attendees will also be allowed from September 21, besides industries can now operate with 100 per cent staff capacity.

The Delhi government has decided to maintain the status quo on prohibited activities till September 2 in the national capital.

In an order, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority said the government reviewed the present COVID-19 situation and it has been considered to continue the restrictions on those activities which are presently not permitted in the city.

While gyms have not been allowed to reopen in the city, weekly markets have been allowed to function on a trial basis till September 6.

The Punjab government has said all existing restrictions imposed to combat COVID-19, including weekend lockdown, will be in place in all 167 municipal towns of the state till the end of September.

Night curfew will also continue in the cities from 7 pm to 5 am during the same period, it added.

The ban on all social, political and religious gatherings and protests and demonstrations will continue to remain in force throughout the state, while gatherings relating to weddings and funerals shall be limited to 30 and 20 people respectively, the spokesperson said.

The Chandigarh administration has announced the lifting of night curfew in the city.

The West Bengal government has decided to go ahead with three days of complete lockdown on September 7, 11 and 12.

In addition to the relaxations permitted outside the containment zones, Metro Rail service will be allowed to resume in a graded manner from September 8.

Nagaland has announced a slew of relaxations, including the lifting of restrictions on inter-state movement from Tuesday.

Shopping malls, restaurants, hotels, gymnasium and salons will be allowed to open by following all safety protocols, said minister Neiba Kronu.

Sports complexes and stadiums will also be allowed to open but without spectators, he said.

Markets would also be permitted but with certain conditions, the minister for planning and coordination said.

Intra-state movement of people will be allowed from September 1, Kronu said.

In line with the Centre's guidelines, most states are allowing open air theatres function from September 21.

The Himachal Pradesh government has opened religious places under Unlock 4 even as inter-state movement of public transport buses will remain prohibited.

Meanwhile, to ease passenger movement in high-demand areas, the Railways will run more special trains apart from the 230 plying currently, for which consent has been sought from state governments, an official said.

The Railway ministry spokesperson, however, did not say how many trains will be added to the network.

Currently, all regular passenger services are suspended due to the coronavirus crisis.

The coronavirus induced country-wide lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi from March 25 and it was extended in phases till May 31.

The Unlock process of the country had begun on June 1 with the graded reopening of commercial, social, religious and other activities.

Unlock 4 will come into effect from September 1 and will continue till September 30.

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