Frontlist News | Unlock 4.0 From cinemas to schools to metro trains, here’s what will open and what remain closed in September

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Unlock 4.0: The Centre is expected to announce the guidelines for the fourth phase of the lockdown exit plan which may come with some more relaxations.

New Delhi | The fourth phase of the ongoing process of uplifting the lockdown – termed as Unlock 4.0 – will begin from September 1. The unlock process began from June 1 with the opening up industrial activities and offices across the country, and later reopening of shopping malls, religious places and unrestricted intra- and inter-state travel.

However, schools, colleges and other educational institutions continue to remain closed amid the unabated rise in COVID-19 cases and deaths. Metro rail services have also remained suspended fearing further spread of the virus.

Amid the continuous rise in cases and deaths, the Centre is expected to announce the guidelines for the fourth phase of lockdown exit plan which may come with some more relaxations.

Cinema Halls

The Centre may allow standalone cinema halls to reopen in September while the multiplexes in malls are unlikely to get a go-ahead anytime soon. As per reports, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Health Ministry have already prepared the Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs) which include staggered seating and contactless ticketing.

According to a Business Standard report, cinema hall owners have asked the Centre to allow them to operate at 50 per cent occupancy, as anything below that will not be economically viable and, therefore, they won’t be able to resume operations.

The lockdown has impacted the 10,000-odd screens (of which 2,800 are in multiplexes). From a gross revenue of Rs 11,500 crore in 2019 at the box office, this financial year has been a com­plete washout so far. The in­dustry supports over 200,000 w­orkers, many of whom have lost jobs.

Metro Rail

The metro train services are likely to resume beginning September 1. States will, however, take the final call on reopening the rapid transport networks depending on the coronavirus situation there, reported news agency PTI.

Metro services were suspended in late March to combat the spread of the novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 31 lakh people in the country so far.

Delhi Metro trains may hit the tracks too, from September 1. The Centre is likely to approve the recommendation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal who had said that the metro train service should resume on a trial basis while citing the improved COVID-19 situation in the city-state.

Only 50 passengers will be allowed in a coach and the services, like Mumbai locals, will be open to only essential services staff.

Schools and Colleges

News agency PTI quoted an official saying that there will be no reopening of schools and colleges immediately, but deliberations are underway on whether to allow reopening of higher educational institutions such as universities, IITs and IIMs. No decision has been taken on the matter yet, the official added.

However, according to a media report, the government may soon announce a phase-wise plan for the resumption of the schools and educational institutions across the country, between September and November 14.

Schools and colleges across the country are closed since March 23, two days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the nation-wide lockdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, teaching and educational activities have resorted to online methods, whose reach has been limited of the uneven availability of smart-devices, specifically in the country’s hinterland.

According to a report in Economic Times, the specifics of the plan have been formulated by the group of secretaries associated with the Group of Ministers (GoM) on COVID-19 management, which is being headed by Health Minister and Member of Parliament from Delhi’s Chandni Chowk, Dr Harsh Vardhan.

The report quoting its sources said that central government will simply issue Broad Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) as for the opening of schools and educational institutions, with the final decision left to the respective state governments so as to decide when and how to restart the classroom teaching.

International Flights

Regular international flight services are unlikely to resume in the fourth phase of the lockdown exit plan. However, there will be more flights under Vande Bharat Mission. Air Bubble agreements with more countries will be signed widening the scope of international flights.

Accordingly, persons desirous to travel to India on Vande Bharat flights, will register themselves with the Indian missions in the country where they are stranded or residing, along with necessary details as prescribed by Ministry of External Affairs.

Other services

Bars, which are so far not allowed to reopen, may be permitted to sell liquor over the counter for takeaway.

On Saturday, the Centre has asked all states to ensure that there should be no restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods during the ongoing Unlock-3 phase.

In a communication to chief secretaries of all states and Union Territories, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said there were reports that local level restrictions on movement are being imposed by various districts and states.

Drawing attention to the Unlock 3 guidelines, Bhalla said such restrictions are creating problems in inter-state movement of goods and services and are impacting supply chains resulting in disruption in economic activity and employment.

The unlock guidelines clearly states that there shall be no restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods, he said in the letter.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first announced lockdown with effect from March 25 to combat the coronavirus pandemic which was subsequently extended till May 31.

Since June 1, the unlock process began with resumption of industrial activities and offices across the country.

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