The Centre late on Friday issued an order relaxing lockdown guidelines to allow the functioning of select shops within and outside municipal areas. However, the exemptions will not apply to the shops in malls, coronavirus hotspots and containment zones.

In a fresh addendum to an April 15 order, the Ministry of Home Affairs exempted all shops in residential areas and market complexes in rural areas from the lockdown guidelines. “It would be mandatory for all permitted shops to open only with 50% strength of workers, ensure compulsory wearing of masks and strict adherence to social distancing norms,” the ministry said in its new order.

Meanwhile, malls and big shopping complexes shall remain closed in both urban and rural areas till May 3, the order signed by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said.

Outside the municipal limits, which includes rural areas, all shops except liquor stores can be open, the home ministry spokesperson clarified on Saturday. The official added that the sale by e-commerce companies will be permitted only for essential goods.

“In rural areas, all shops, except those in shopping malls allowed to open,” the spokesperson tweeted. “In urban areas, all standalone/neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complexes are allowed to open. Shops in markets/market complexes and shopping malls are not allowed to open.”

The government in its latest order has removed the term “shopping complexes” from the list of activities and establishments that have been banned and replaced it with “market complexes within the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities”. This move is likely to open up operations in the rural sector, which has been severely affected due to the lockdown.

Meanwhile, Assam Additional Director General of Police GP Singh urged residents in the state to wait for state government’s instructions to implement the ministry’s new order. “State government will take a view on this on Monday after watching the situation for two days,” Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna tweeted.

Similarly, Delhi Health Minister Satyendra Jain said any decision on the home ministry’s directive will be taken after a review of the situation. “Discussions are underway,” he told ANI. “Whatever is finalised, will be started only after April 30.” The order is also not likely to have much impact in Delhi that has 92 containment zones.

Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said the decision to open shops in rural areas can be easily implemented in the state, but not in urban areas. “As far as implementation in urban areas is concerned, we will do it as per conditions in centre’s notification,” he said. “A meeting, chaired by the chief minister, will be held in afternoon. Decision to be taken after discussion.”

A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the extension of the lockdown till May 3, the government had issued a revised set of guidelines and eased restrictions for certain sectors. On April 17, the government made new additions to the list of activities to be permitted in “non hotspots” after April 20. The government said that non-banking financial institutions and microfinance corporations will be allowed to operate with minimum staff. The Centre also allowed the harvesting and processing of minor forest produce, non-timber forest produce by Scheduled Tribes and other forest dwellers.

The total number of cases in India reached 24,506 on Saturday morning and the toll rose to 775, the health ministry’s data showed.