The Union Ministry of Home Affairs on Monday issued fresh guidelines, relaxing lockdown restrictions further from July 1, as part of its “Unlock 2” phase in the fight against the novel coronavirus. Under the “Unlock 1” phase that began on June 1, the Centre had allowed hotels, malls and places of worship to reopen, subject to state approval.

The ministry said that from July 1 the operations of domestic flights and passenger trains will be further extended. However, the prohibition on international air travel will continue except for special missions such as “Vande Bharat”, which is a programme to repatriate Indians stuck abroad.

The ministry said that the night curfew, which was in place from 9 pm to 5 am since June 1, will now be relaxed to 10 pm to 5 am. “Further, relaxations in night curfew have been given for seamless operation of industrial units in multiple shifts, movement of persons and goods on National and State Highways, loading and unloading of cargo and movement of persons to their destinations after disembarking from buses, trains and airplanes,” the ministry said.

The ministry announced that training institutions of the state and central governments will be allowed to function from July 15. The Department of Personnel and Training will issue a Standard Operating Protocol in this regard. However, schools and colleges will remain closed till July 31, a decision the ministry said had been taken after consultations with states and Union Territories.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had held meetings with chief ministers and heads of states and Union Territories on June 16 and June 17, to discuss further measures to combat the coronavirus.

Shops and establishments can have more than five persons at a time from July 1, depending upon the area they are located in, the Union home ministry said on Monday. However, social distancing must be maintained.

All the relaxations apply only outside containment zones, where only essential activities remain permitted. But the guidelines said that facilities such as metro rail, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls will continue to be prohibited. Social, political, religious, cultural and academic gatherings also remain banned.

“Dates for opening of these will be decided separately, based on the assessment of the situation,” the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

The ministry added that states and Union Territories can make their own decisions about what amenities would be permitted outside containment zones, depending on the coronavirus situation there. Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu had earlier on Monday extended the lockdown till July 31, and Nagaland till July 15. A complete lockdown will remain in place till July 5 in Madurai and Greater Chennai Police Station limits in the state, including Chennai, Kanchipuram, Chengalpattu and Thiruvalluvar districts.

The countrywide lockdown was first imposed on March 25, and was extended four times prior to the “Unlock 1” phase. As of Monday evening, India had reported 5,48,318 cases of Covid-19, including 16,475 deaths. The Centre said the recovery rate had reached 58.67%.

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