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Lockdowns – The new normal for India

Lockdown is a kind of new normal we are coming to terms with because of the Coronavirus pandemic. India has been subjected to it since 22nd March when Prime Minister Narendra Modi first announced Lockdown 1. As cases kept on rising, India underwent a number of lockdowns and also different forms of it.

Six months ago, many people did not have an idea about what a lockdown meant. Now, as we approach the end of July, the lockdown has become the new normal, especially in India. Be it a toddler or someone aged more than 80, everyone knows what being under a lockdown means. Work from home, online classes, social distancing are now being considered as normal. India has undergone a series of lockdowns and different variations of it since 22nd March until now, i.e., July. Currently, at least half of India’s population is under different forms of lockdown – complete, partial, or weekend. Let’s go through what has happened in the country throughout all of the lockdowns.

Lockdown Phase 1

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a 21-day nationwide lockdown on 22nd March, effective from 23rd March till 14th April under strict guidelines. People had rushed to stock up essential goods. From 23rd March, almost all factories and services had been shut. Arrests were made for violating the norms throughout the country. States were striving to provide relief packages for the poor and affected during the lockdown. On 26th March, Narendra Modi announced a stimulus package of ₹170,000 crores which would provide food security – free cereals and cooking gas for poor households. It also provided for coverage of the medical personnel. Prior to the announcement of lockdown, the Indian Railways had suspended all the trains till 31st March. Only trains carrying parcels and essential goods were allowed to run on 29th March. The national rail also announced that they would convert the coaches into isolation wards. On 5th April, citizens switched all the lights off of their houses and showed solidarity to the frontline workers for 9 minutes from 9 pm and lit diyas and candles. As the first phase of lockdown trudged to an end, many states decided to extend the lockdown till the end of April, the states being – Odisha, Punjab, Maharashtra, Karnataka with some relaxations, West Bengal and Telangana. Towards the end of the first phase, the COVID-19 infections in India had significantly slowed down.

Lockdown Phase 2

The nationwide lockdown was extended till 3rd May by Prime Minister Modi on the 14th of April with a promise of conditional relaxations after 20th April. All the areas would be carefully evaluated to know if they had contained the spread of the virus, if that was the case, they would be released from under the lockdown norms. If cases were detected after that, there would be rebuttal, and lockdown will be imposed. On 16th April, the classification of zones was introduced – ‘red zone’ indicated places of infection hotspots, ‘orange zone’ were the areas with some infection and ‘green zones’ were the areas with no infection. From 20th April, some relaxations were imposed, on the industries of agricultural business, dairy products, aquaculture, plantations and shops selling farmer’s supplies. Public Works Programmes also resumed with strict social distancing rules. Cargo transportation, including trucks, trains and flights resumed running. Banks and government centres distributing benefits were kept open. Retail shops were opened with limited staff and social distancing rules. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued guidelines for the inter-state transportation of the people stranded in another state rather than their state of domicile. States were required to assign nodal authorities and follow appropriate procedures while sending and receiving such persons.

Lockdown Phase 3

The Government of India along with MHA on 1st May, further extended the lockdown for two weeks starting from the 4th of May till 18th May. The whole country was classified into zones – red zones (130 districts), orange zones (284 districts), and green zones (319 districts). Normal movement was allowed in the green zones with buses running with 50 per cent capacity. Only private and hired vehicles were allowed to move in orange zones. Red zones would remain under complete lockdown. The zone revision took place every week.

Lockdown Phase 4

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) decided to further extend the lockdown beyond 18th May for two weeks with some added relaxations. Unlike before, states were given more authority on the classification of the zones and the implementation roadmap. Red zones were further divided into containment zones and buffer zones. The local authorities now had control over the division.

Unlock 1.0

A new set of guidelines were introduced for the month of June by the MHA, lifting the lockdown measures and reopening for ‘economic focus’ and was named as Unlock Phase 1. Lockdown restrictions were only exercised in containment zones. Shopping malls, religious places, hotels, and restaurants were allowed to reopen from 8th June but with strict social norms and safety parameters. The large gatherings were still banned. There were no more restrictions on inter-state travel. Night curfews were effective from 9 pm to 5 am.

Unlock 2.0

This phase began on 1st July under the guidelines and instructions issued by the MHA and NDMA. Lockdown measures are only in effect in the containment zones. The night curfew is effective from 10 pm to 5 am. Apart from that, the State government is free to impose restrictions in the state according to the situation. The state borders are open for travel. There is limited international air travel permitted under Vande Bharat Mission. The shops are not allowed to have more than five persons at a time. The educational institutions, recreational activities and metros are closed till July 31st. Only few essential activities are allowed in the containment zones, maintaining strict parameters and “intensive contact tracing, house-to-house surveillance, and other clinical interventions”.

Current lockdown norms in various states

Manipur has announced complete lockdown for 14 days from July 23rd. There will also be a six-day shutdown in valleys of Jammu and Kashmir except for Bandipora district from July 22 – July 27. Bhopal is under a complete lockdown from July 24 to August 3. The Sikkim government has also imposed a complete lockdown in the state from July 21st to July 27th. Apart from that, the states of Bihar and Nagaland are also under complete lockdown. Maharashtra imposed lockdown from July 13 to July 23.

West Bengal has announced a bi-weekly, i.e., two days in a week, lockdown. Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh have weekend lockdowns. Odisha’s four districts and Rourkela city are under complete lockdown till July 31st and the rest are under weekend lockdowns. A complete lockdown has been announced in Raipur and Birgaon Municipal corporation areas in Chhattisgarh from July 22 to July 28. The entire capital city of Thiruvananthapuram of Kerala has also been put under a complete shutdown due to the surge in cases.

The various steps taken by the state governments are appreciated. Although the cases continue to spike in leaps and bounds, these restrictions and lockdowns are aimed at containing the outbreak and may put a brake on the surge of the cases.

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