Punjab is the latest state to be told off by the centre for "diluting" coronavirus lockdown guidelines with decisions like designating the sale and servicing of air-conditioners as "essential". The state withdrew its order last evening. The home ministry had also written a sharp letter to Kerala for allowing restaurants, book shops and barber shops to reopen in parts of the state.
Punjab had allowed the opening of some activities prohibited in the April 15 order of the home ministry, Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said in a letter to the state on Monday, ordering "strict compliance" with central guidelines.
"...additional activities allowed by the Punjab government, include the distribution of books by bookshops to schools and college students and to treat the sale of ACs, air coolers, fans and their repair shops as essential goods or services," said the letter, calling it dilution of home ministry guidelines.
The letter reminded Punjab, ruled by Congress's Amarinder Singh, that the Supreme Court had asked all states to comply with central orders "in letter and spirit in the interest of public safety".
In an earlier letter on Sunday, the government had said states and union territories cannot "dilute" its guidelines on the lockdown enforced to control the spread of coronavirus and allow their own activities during this period. They can be more stringent if they want, it said.
Besides Punjab and Kerala, many states had made their own list of essential activities and announced the easing of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions from Monday.
Kerala relaxed the curbs in two of the least affected zones, allowing private vehicles movement on an odd-even basis and dine-in services at hotels.
Local workshops, barber shops, two passengers in the backseat of cars and pillion riders on two-wheelers would also be allowed in specific zones, said the Left-led government in Kerala. It also said bus travel could be allowed for short journeys within some towns and take-away counters could function until 8 pm.