India extends lockdown until 3 May; may allow some factories to resume ops

Author: Priya Jestin

2020/04/14

MUMBAI (ICIS)--India decided to extend its nationwide lockdown until 3 May to slow down the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus, but is inclined to allow some factories, including plastic production units, to resume operations with restrictions.

"Lockdown has been extended until 3 May. During this period, the lockdown will be implemented strictly," India Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday.

A detailed advisory on relaxation of some rules to be implemented from 20 April onward will be announced on 15 April, Modi said.

"Supply chain problems are being resolved on a regular basis. We are working on other issues also," he added.

India's nationwide 21-day lockdown was supposed to end on Tuesday.

“The government will come up with new guidelines for the next two weeks of lockdown, said a source with the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), adding, “the risk of further spread of the disease remains high and the lockdown can be eased only in phases.”

Some states including Delhi, Maharashtra, Telangana, West Bengal, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Odisha, have already announced the extension of the lockdown until end-April.

"We cannot afford any new [coronavirus] hotspots in the country. During the next one week, we will intensify the lockdown measures," Modi said.

Investigations will be carried out across the country until 20 April  "to check how well the states and districts are coping with the pandemic", he said.

"The states and districts that have managed to contain the increase of the pandemic and reverse the trend will be given some leeway to begin regular activities from 20 April onward, subject to certain conditions. Any violation of these guidelines will imply a reversal of the easing of the lockdown," Modi said.

The government plans to ease some restrictions during the next two weeks, with the creation of colour-coded zones that will enable the administrators to decide the level of economic activity allowed in a particular area, the source from MHA said.

For instance, red would indicate a hotspot which would be under strict lockdown, while economic activity would be restarted in the green zones.

“Industrial areas that fall in the green zones may restart activity soon. The details are still being worked out,” the source from MHA said.

One of the plans being contemplated is bringing migrant workers from the camps where they are currently housed to their respective factories. They will then be housed within the industrial complex, which will allow work to begin and keep the workers safe from the virus infected areas, he added.

The government is also trying to ease the problems faced by the transportation industry by making it mandatory for all states to allow free movement of all trucks and goods carriers, MHA said in a statement dated 13 April.

Restrictions would continue to be in place in large cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Pune, Bhopal, Begaluru, etc, the government source said.

India's Ministry of Commerce and Industry has asked for a relaxation of the restrictions on industry sectors as per an official mail on 11 April from the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).

"Efforts are being made across the country to ensure the essential supplies are not affected and so far, barring certain issues, the supplies have been satisfactory," Guruprasad Mohapatra, secretary of (DPIIT), said in a letter to  Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) secretary Ajay Bhalla dated 11 April.

"However, it is felt that certain more activities with reasonable safeguards should be allowed once a final decision regarding extensions and nature of lockdown is taken by the central government," he said, adding that these activities are crucial to improve the economy.

India has been under lockdown to control the coronavirus pandemic since 23 March and the MHA has occasionally made clarifications on what activities are to be allowed.

Big companies with proper sanitation and distancing norms in place in sectors such as textiles, automobiles and electronic manufacturing should be considered to operate at 20-25% capacity, Mohapatra said.

Firms with export commitments need to be allowed to operate with minimal manpower, he said in the letter.

The letter suggests that industrial activity should be restarted in special economic zones and all export-oriented firms including chemicals and textiles.

Industrial activity could be restarted in at least 15 sectors, including plastic manufacturing, fertilizer, automobiles, heavy electricals, electronics and telecom equipment, steel mills, power looms, defence units, cement, rubber, seeds and agrochemicals.

Manufacturing can initially be restarted in single shifts, following proper social distancing and sanitation norms, the letter said.

On Tuesday morning, India has recorded a total of 10,023 coronavirus cases, with a death toll of 339, according to its Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

Focus article by Priya Jestin

Additional reporting by Nurluqman Suratman

Photo: View of closed shops during a nationwide lockdown imposed to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Srinagar, India - 13 April 2020 (By Saqib Majeed/SOPA Images/Shutterstock)

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