Maharashtra retains night curfew, malls to reopen

Maharashtra

Malls and market complexes will reopen, and will function from 9 am to 7 pm, in the Maharashtra , including in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, under new guidelines issued by the state government Wednesday.

While shops in malls will reopen, theatres, food courts and restaurants in these complexes will remain shut, according to the new guidelines, signed in by Chief Secretary Sanjay Kumar.

However, the lockdown continues, and unlike the Centre’s new guidelines that were also issued on Wednesday, “movement of people for shopping and outdoor exercises will continue to be restricted to neighbourhood areas.” The state government has also retained night time restrictions on movement, which the Centre has done away with.

“Maharashtra is threatened with the spread of Covid-19. It is expedient to extend the lockdown in the entire state till August 31,” wrote Kumar, while adding that “easing of restrictions and opening up of activities which remain prohibited across the state will be done in a phase wise manner with SOPs.”

The state has permitted civic Maharashtra lockdown commissioners and district Collectors to “enforce certain measures and necessary restrictions in affected areas on permitted non-essential activities and the movement of persons for containing the spread of the epidemic.”

The Centre has lifted restrictions on the movement of people during nights from August 1 onwards. It has permitted most activities, except metro railway, cinema halls, swimming pools, parks, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls, outside containment zones in Unlock 3.0. While large gatherings and public rallies will continue to remain prohibited, curbs on functioning of malls and market complexes have now been lifted. Among the new relaxations, the Centre has permitted yoga institutes and gyms to function from August 5.

But for now, these will remain shut in Maharashtra, with the Thackeray government adopting a more conservative approach.

While the Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM), an umbrella body of 781 registered trade bodies, and some other merchant associations, threatened to launch a “non-cooperation protest” if shops were not allowed to remain open for six days from Monday to Saturday from August 1, the government has decided not to blink on this. The guidelines issued on Wednesday did not announce the relaxation.

Shops are currently open three days a week in Mumbai and other red zones in the state. The state’s new order, meanwhile, allows outdoor non team sports like golf courses, outdoor firing ranges, outdoor gymnastics, tennis, outdoor badminton and Malkhamb to resume. Taxi, cab aggregators and rickshaws can be used for only essential travel. However, unlike the earlier order each taxi can now carry three instead of two passengers excluding the driver. A private vehicle can carry three passengers excluding the driver as against two earlier. Two people are allowed to travel on a two wheeler. The number of passengers in a rickshaw barring the driver remains unchanged at 2. Face masks have been compulsory for all who are travelling in these vehicles.

Earlier in the day, CM Uddhav Thackeray, at the weekly cabinet meeting, had told ministers that he prefers a “gradual and calibrated” process of reopenings, pointing at the big flare up of cases after the first unlock, christened Mission Begin Again by the Thackeray government, began on June 5.

A senior minister said Thackeray was categorical at the cabinet meeting that he was not in favour of being “too liberal” with relaxations.

Sources, however, said the new guidelines will now be reviewed on a weekly basis. After allowing hotels and lodges to run with 33 per cent capacity, sources said that demand for reopenings of restaurants and permitting up to 50 per cent occupancy in hotels, lodges and restaurants has been made.

In red zones, a proposal to increase the staff presence in private offices from 10 per cent to 25 per cent in under consideration. But with Thane still battling a surge of active cases, authorities said that suburban rail services will continue to be unavailable for the general commuter. While the NCP and the Congress have been pushing for relaxations to push industrial activities in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Pune, Aurangabad, and Nagpur, but Thackeray favours a measured approach. Meanwhile, the FAM has also demanded a stimulus package for the trading community.