Tamil Nadu has announced major relaxations in coronavirus lockdown guidelines starting Monday, including extension of working hours of standalone and neighbourhood shops and allowing private establishments to function with a reduced number of employees on the premises.
However, these relaxations will not be applicable in containment zones, the government added.
Under the revised guidelines, shops selling essential goods, such as groceries, fruits and vegetables, can function from 6 am to 7 pm. So far, they had to shut at 1 pm.
Standalone and neighbourhood shops in state capital Chennai can open from 10.30 am to 6 pm; those outside the city can function from 10 am to 6 pm. Earlier they had to close at 5 pm.
In a fresh move, private establishments in Chennai will be allowed from 10.30 am to 6 pm but only with a maximum of 33 per cent of the total workforce. Those outside the capital can stay open till 7 pm, but must follow the same 33 per cent rule.
Petrol pumps on state and central highways can function 24×7, while those in towns and cities outside Chennai have been allowed between 6 am and 8 pm.
Tea shops across the state have been allowed from 6 am to 7 pm, but can only offer takeaways. Violation of social distancing rules – for example, if customers eat or drink there – will lead to the shop being shut
While announcing these relaxations, the government reiterated that social distancing guidelines must be strictly followed at all times. Regular disinfection of shops and establishments must also take place, the government added.
Other restrictions as detailed by the centre and state government, will continue to be enforced till further orders, the government said.
Tamil Nadu has reported over 6,000 COVID-19 cases and 68 deaths so far. Across India the number of confirmed cases is inching towards 60,000, with 1,981 deaths linked to the virus.
Last month Tamil Nadu announced an “intense lockdown” in five major cities, including Chennai, that have recorded nearly 50 per cent of its cases. Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai were shut for four days, while two smaller cities – Salem and Tirupur – were closed for three days.
During this time people were not allowed to leave their homes even to buy groceries; only push carts selling fruits and vegetables, and home delivery from restaurants were permitted.
Last week the government said the “intense lockdown” would not be extended.
India is in the midst of a prolonged lockdown, initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 25, to break the coronavirus chain of transmission.
Scheduled to end on May 17, the centre has ordered phased re-opening of shops and commercial establishments in “orange” and “green” zones, as well as non-containment areas of “red” zones, in an effort to boost growth.