New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued new guidelines on Saturday for opening up of more activities in areas outside the Containment Zones. In Unlock 4, which will come into effect from September 1, the process of phased re-opening of activities has been extended further.

However, schools, colleges and other educational and coaching institutions will remain closed for students till September 30, with some relaxations for students of classes 9 to 12.

With these guidelines, the government has allowed more activities outside the containment zones, but has kept some things unchanged.

Here are the salient features of the new guidelines:

·         Metro rail will be allowed to operate with effect from September 7, 2020 in a graded manner, by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MOHUA)/ Ministry of Railways (MOR), in consultation with MHA. In this regard, Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) will be issued by MOHUA.

·         Bars, which have been shut since March, will be allowed to open from September 1.

·         Social/ academic/ sports/ entertainment/ cultural/ religious/ political functions and other congregations will be permitted with a ceiling of 100 persons, with effect from September 21, 2020. However, such limited gatherings can be held with mandatory wearing of face masks, social distancing, provision for thermal scanning and hand wash or sanitizer.

·         Open air theatres will be permitted to open with effect from September 21, 2020.

·         After extensive consultation with states and UTs, it has been decided that schools, colleges, educational and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed for students and regular class activity up to September 30, 2020. Online/distance learning shall continue to be permitted and shall be encouraged.

·         In a significant directive, the home ministry said that state governments shall not impose any local lockdown outside the containment zones without prior consultation with the central government.

The following will be permitted, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, with effect from September 21, 2020 for which, SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW):

·         States/ UTs may permit upto 50% of teaching and non-teaching staff to be called to the schools at a time for online teaching/ tele- counselling and related work.

·         Students of classes 9 to 12 may be permitted to visit their schools, in areas outside the Containment Zones only, on voluntary basis, for taking guidance from their teachers. This will be subject to written consent of their parents/ guardians.

·         Skill or Entrepreneurship training will be permitted in National Skill Training Institutes, Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs), Short term training centres registered with National Skill Development Corporation or State Skill Development Missions or other Ministries of Government of India or State Governments.

·         National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD), Indian Institute of Entrepreneurship (IIE) and their training providers will also be permitted.

·         Higher Education Institutions only for research scholars (Ph.D.) and post-graduate students of technical and professional programmes requiring laboratory/ experimental works. These will be permitted by the Department of Higher Education (DHE) in consultation with MHA, based on the assessment of the situation, and keeping in view incidence of COVID-19 in the States/ UTs.

What remains unchanged?

·         Cinema halls, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres (excluding open air theatre) and similar places.

·         International air travel of passengers, except as permitted by MHA.

·         There will be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods. No separate permission, approval, e-permit will be required for such movements.

·         Vulnerable persons - those above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years - have been advised to stay at home.

·         The use of Aarogya Setu mobile application will continue to be encouraged, according to the guidelines.

Containment zone:

·         Lockdown shall continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 30th September, 2020.

·         Within the containment zones, strict perimeter control shall be maintained and only essential activities allowed.

Unlock 4 will come into effect from September 1 and will continue till September 30.