The Centre on Wedenesday issued fresh guidelines as part of ‘Unlock 3’ — the Covid-19-related lifting of restrictions — which scrapped night curfew and allowed gyms and yoga institutes to reopen from August 5.
The government ignored demands by cinema hall owners for reopening. Theatres, bars, and places of congregation will also remain shut.
As part of ‘Unlock 2’, night curfew was in place from 10 pm to 5 am. This has now been done away with. The move will allow shops, malls, and other establishments to remain open after 10 pm, but not many in the industry were enthused by the relaxation given the poor sales. Other restrictions continue, at least till August 31.
Schools, colleges, and coaching institutes will continue to remain shut. There will be no international air travel or metro rail services either.
All other large congregations, including political, social and cultural meetings, remain banned.
An exception has been made for the Independence day celebrations on August 15. The Ministry of Home Affairs had issued guidelines on July 21 for holding the celebrations by maintaining social distancing norms and keeping a check on the number of participants, at the Red Fort in the national capital, and in states and districts.
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will issue standard operating procedures for gymnasiums and yoga institutes.
The Centre announced ‘Unlock 3’ even though the country crossed 1.5 million Covid-19 cases, and the daily spike in cases inched closer to 50,000. Some of the states, where the increase in cases has been sharp, have gone back to enforcing stricter lockdown in the past couple of weeks.Cinema hall owners had demanded that the government allow them to operate at 50 per cent occupancy. They said anything below that would not be economically viable and they won’t be able to resume operations.
Sources in the cinema industry said the government had assured to look at their plea sympathetically. They termed it media speculation that the government might allow cinemas to reopen with 25 per cent occupancy, and said they were not communicated about this.
Cinema hall owners intend to continue to impress upon the government to allow the opening of cinema halls with 50 per cent occupancy.
The lockdown has affected the 10,000-odd screens (of which 2,800 are in multiplexes). From a gross revenue of Rs 11,500 crore in 2019 at the box office, this financial year has been a complete washout.
As for scrapping of nigh curfew, Confederation of All India Traders Secretary General Praveen Khandelwal said the removal of restrictions during later hours was unlikely to benefit retailers.
“We are witnessing a 90 per cent drop in footfalls in outlets as people are unwilling to move out due the fear of Covid infection. Thus, keeping stores open till late hours will not help businesses,” he said.
Khandelwal said keeping shut essential public transport, like metro, had a great impact on movement of commuters, and consequently on all economic activities. “While we understand that these measures may have taken based on assessment of the current situation, resuming metro rail operations with strict hygiene and distancing measures will help,” he said.
Lockdown will remain enforced across all containment zones, with the states and Union Territories deciding upon its contours.