Stranded migrant workers and their families wait to get thermally screened outside the Guru Nanak Auditorium before going to a railway station to take a train to Bihar state on Sunday. AFP
India on Sunday extended its nearly 2-month-old lockdown by two weeks after reporting nearly 5,000 new coronavirus cases , but said restrictions could be eased in low-risk areas to boost economic activity.
After surpassing China on Saturday, India now has the most confirmed virus cases in Asia, with nearly 91,000.
New Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and some other key regions are still battling to control the rising curve of coronavirus infections. But the Home Ministry said low-risk areas will be allowed to restore economic activity.
Schools, malls and other public places will remain mostly closed, though rules will be relaxed in areas with low numbers of cases, according to an order from the interior ministry.
"New guidelines have permitted considerable relaxations in lockdown restrictions," the ministry said in a tweet accompanying the order.
The lockdown was declared on March 25, but has been progressively relaxed in phases since the beginning of this month.
The Ministry of Home Affairs announced the extension of lockdown on a day when India registered a record increase of 4,987 new cases of COVID-19 during the previous 24 hours.
There have been 2,872 deaths in India so far, but the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare here noted while announcing the latest figures that "around 37.51 percent patients have recovered so far." The recovery figures stand at 34,108.
Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla, in an order issued six hours before the ongoing lockdown was to end at midnight on Sunday, said all domestic and international air travel, except for domestic medical services, shall continue to remain suspended until the end of May. Metro rail services in cities shall also remain suspended.
Satyendra Kumar, a migrant worker, massages the feet of his daughter after walking for three days, as they wait to cross the border to their home state of Uttar Pradesh. Reuters
All educational institutions will remain closed except for online teaching. Hotels, restaurants, cinema halls, shopping malls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, theatres and sports complexes will also continue to be shuttered during the lockdown, the order specified.
Religious congregations "are strictly prohibited" until May 31 and all places of worship shall be closed to the public. India will continue to remain under strict curfew from 19.00 to 07.00 daily except for what the government has classified as essential services.
However, inter-state movement of passenger transport and people will resume on Monday with the consent of state governments concerned.
Several Indian states, some of which had lobbied the federal government for a relaxation in the lockdown, immediately said they would allow many businesses to restart.
Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani said all industries and offices would be allowed to operate, barring those in containment zones.
India also softened its stance on a contact tracing app, which it previously said was mandatory for all public and private sector employees returning to work.
While it once said that heads of companies and organizations needed "to ensure 100% coverage" of the Aarogya Setu app among employees, it now says employers should get employees to use the app on a "best effort basis."
WAM / Reuters
India has seen a jump of nearly 100,000 cases over the past week, the health ministry said. In all, the country has confirmed 548,318 cases, making it the world’s fourth-worst affected country after the United States, Brazil and Russia. India’s death toll has reached 16,475.
On Friday the southern state of Tamil Nadu imposed a lockdown with tough restrictions in Chennai and surrounding districts until June 30.
Students of New South Wales (NSW), the most populous state, and the northern state of Queensland began going back to school on a limited basis to lessen the risk of spreading the illness, state leaders said.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, praised the efforts of the UAE’s frontline workers after zero coronavirus deaths were reported in the last 24 hours.
The president’s comments were made as the US continues to flounder in its fight against Covid-19. A total of 67,417 new cases were reported on Tuesday, the country's highest single-day jump in cases since the pandemic began.
An Indian school principal in Ajman became the latest winner of $1 million in the Dubai Duty Free Millennium Millionaire and Finest Surprise draw held on Wednesday in Terminal 2 of Dubai International Airport.