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Unlock 4.0 - What Is In store?

We take a look at the upcoming announcement by the Ministry of home affairs regarding updated lockdown guidelines and what citizens can expect to hear.

A market in India under lockdown due to COVID-19
Representive image of a market (Source: AP Photo)

The national lockdown called in light of the COVID-19 pandemic has now crossed the 5 month mark. Even with the precautions in place, the number of coronavirus cases has crossed the 3 million mark. While recovered cases have seen a significant rise in numbers, there is no sight of a reduction in new COVID-19 cases. The previous unlock announcement applicable till the 31st of August saw the MHA allowing the reopening of gymnasiums and yoga institutes.

Schools and colleges have remained closed since the third week of March this year. Due to this, many schools claim that there has been a significant loss of education. Although online classes are being conducted, the medium limits the capabilities of teachers in making students understand and in-turn, the student in grasping the lessons. Many parents also say they weren’t satisfied with the education their child was receiving. Added to this is the limitation of attention span among preschoolers which leaves a teacher teaching an online class full of parents. Rumours suggest that there may be guidelines as to the systematic re-opening of these institutions. Earlier this year, multiple reports claimed that educational institutions may see a reopening soon. However, it is highly unlikely to happen, given the health situation in India.

Offices, and workplaces have also seen a strict ‘work from home’ protocol to prevent spread of disease. The initial lockdown guidelines only allowed financial institutions such as banks and insurance companies to remain functional on a limited staff. During the lockdown, many corporates complained and even made jokes about online conferences and meetings, poking fun at the minuscule amount of work getting done and the pointless nature of working online. The new guidelines are expected to revise protocol concerning office attendance with sources suggesting that 100% attendance will be allowed but company discretion regarding the same will be advised. In such a situation, companies may see shorter office work hours with In and Out timings being divided among departments at different times to limit the number of people at the workplace.

Interstate transport will return to service allowing individuals to travel within the country. However, domestic and international flights may not see the same fate. It must be pointed out that under the Disaster Management Act, states have full right to ignore relaxations allowed by the Centre. Thus, it can be likely for many states to decide to shut their borders as a method to control the spread of disease. Interstate rail services are not expected to see any change. However, given the poor supply of buses to make up for the demand, the centre may discuss other measures.

The currently applicable curfew timings which restrict public movement and activity from 7am to 7pm were announced on the 1st of May. A lot of discussion followed rumours of reopening offices regarding curfew timings. Many people including police officials showed skepticism regarding office goers being able to follow the 7pm curfew deadline also citing that it would be a logistical nightmare for the police. Officials from Delhi say that they had suggested the night curfew be limited from 9pm to 5am in the city. The upcoming announcement may not see a change in curfew timings. However, the possibility cannot be completely ruled out at the moment.

The zonal containment of the virus has been a matter of discussion. In the beginning of the lockdown, hitting a certain number of COVID-19 cases would deem entire municipal areas or districts as containment zones. States have been demanding the centre to allow freedom to deem smaller zones by rank where activity will be restricted. This is in an effort to better kickstart the economy and allow more room for people to re-open businesses. It must be pointed out that the centre allows states to decide upon the lockdown rank of a zone allowing states to exploitatively re-open all businesses except those in Red zones. This may be a matter of discussion and consequently see a revision in guidelines.

From a healthcare perspective, the predicted guideline changes may prove as a challenge in preventing a spike in infections. State wise guidelines in accordance with the centres instruction may prove beneficial in improving the economic situation in the nation. Workplace guidelines regarding employee conduct and work hours will also be beneficial.

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