Government offices providing non-essential services reopened in Madhya Pradesh on Thursday, amid a nationwide lockdown till May 3 to combat the spread of the coronavirus, NDTV reported. The state government had shut offices, except those providing essential services, on March 22, three days before the first phase of lockdown was announced.

The reopening of offices came a day after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced that state-level offices, including secretariats and directorates, would work at 30% capacity in some regions from Thursday.

“We are gradually controlling the situation with people’s cooperation,” Chouhan said on Wednesday. “Taking all the care, we have decided to resume the work in all the state-level offices, including the secretariat and directorates. They will start functioning with 30% staff, so that normalcy can be brought back.”

Chouhan had said that while the number of new positive cases per day in Madhya Pradesh is reducing, the number of recoveries is on the rise. From Thursday, a roster will be maintained to ensure that no more than 30% of employees attend work, he added. Social distancing norms will be followed.

However, the opening of all government offices caused panic and confusion among government employees on Thursday, NDTV reported.

“I have come to work after one month,” Urmila Singh, who works in the state health department, told the news channel. “It is a nice feeling but I am very scared. I have family at home...I have a child at home. I will ensure my table is sanitised with Dettol as I have to handle a lot of files.”

Vandana Agarwal, a stenographer at the Directorate of Public Fund Audit, said she was under instructions to start working only after the Bhopal Municipal Corporation sanitised the office. “We will try to work through e-filing and will use gloves for physical files,” she said. “We are working with 30% strength, but there is no clear instruction – should we come on alternate days or every day?”

Madhya Pradesh has reported 2,660 cases of the coronavirus, including 130 deaths as of Thursday evening, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Based on the number of Covid-19 cases, the Centre has divided districts across India into red, orange and green zones. Places where the number of Covid-19 cases is rapidly increasing are red zones. Areas with fewer Covid-19 cases and slower growth rate of infections are classified as orange zones, and green zones are areas where no Covid-19 cases have been reported in two weeks.

Last week, central government offices opened with reduced staff following instructions from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had also held a video conference with chief ministers of all states on April 27. While emphasising that the lockdown, first imposed on March 26, had been a success, the prime minister told the chief ministers that it was important to begin restarting economic activity.

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