COVID-19 Lockdown 4: Shops, markets including barber shops, salons and spas open; Malls remain closed, confusion on e-commerce activity in red zones

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The Ministry of Home Affairs on Sunday evening announced new guidelines while extending the nationwide lockdown till 31 May. According to new rules, shops and markets including barber shops, salons and spas except those in malls will now open with staggered timings. Although E-commerce companies have been allowed to deliver even non-essential goods in red-zones, confusion prevailed till early Monday morning as many took to social media to seek clarity. E-commerce companies have continued to remain banned from delivering non-essential items in places like Noida as this was not permitted during lockdown 3, which ended on 17 May.

An anonymous executive of an E-commerce company told Times of India that companies were waiting for more clarity from states before taking a final call on the resumption of services in various locations. The fact that the MHA released new guidelines just a few hours before the previous lockdown expired, has caused confusion amongst industry leaders and district administrations around the country that fall under red zones.

For example, Noida DM, who’s usually quite active on Twitter with updates on new guidelines, has been quiet on how new rules affected the administrative rea under his control. The Noida DM may share more details on Monday as the office opens after the weekend.

Under new guidelines, hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, malls, swimming pools, gyms will continue to remain shut till 31 May. All social, political, religious functions and places of worship will also be closed till that date.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said in his address to the nation that Lockdown 4 will be unveiled in a new form, indicating that many new relaxations will be incorporated.

In another new development, the central government has also authorised state governments to take a call on the operation of taxis and autorickshaws in their regions.

Reacting to the MHA guidelines, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said, “Centre’s guidelines are largely in line with the proposal sent by Delhi govt based on suggestions of lakhs of Delhiites. We have used the lockdown period to prepare our healthcare system if Corona cases increase, but it is now time to relax the restrictions to some extent.”

The announcement of the lockdown extension came on the day the total number of positive COVID-19 cases touched nearly 90,000 in India with the countrywide death toll reaching 2,872.  India has been under a prolonged period of lockdown since 25 March.

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