Shops, markets and offices will be allowed to open during the fourth phase of the nationwide coronavirus lockdown, which has been extended to May 31, the Home Ministry said Sunday evening, while also stipulating that states could impose additional restrictions if deemed necessary.
Relaxations in lockdown guidelines will not apply to containment areas in red or orange zones, the government also said, adding that in these areas only essential activities and services and sale of essential goods will continue to be allowed.
In non-containment areas - those in red, orange and green zones - local authorities must ensure shops open on staggered timing basis so as to ensure social distancing, the Home Ministry statement said.
All shop owners must also ensure that customers maintain do gaz doori (minimum six feet distance) and that not more than five people are allowed inside at any given time.
Shopping malls will continue to remain closed, the government said, as will cinema halls, bars and restaurants.
Last week, the Delhi government had suggested that malls could be allowed to re-open on an odd-even basis, with only certain stores within each mall allowed to open at any given time.
According to guidelines issued for the third lockdown phase (which ends midnight Sunday), standalone and neighbourhood shops in residential areas, except for those in containment areas of red zones, were allowed to open without any distinction between essential and non-essential goods.
With reference to companies and private offices, the Home Ministry statement said work-from-home policy should be followed wherever possible.
If employee presence in offices is required, staggering of work hours, including adequate gaps between shifts and staggering of lunch breaks, must be adopted, with thermal scanning and sanitisers to be made available at all entry and exit points, as well as common areas.
Social distancing must be rigorously followed, with wearing of face masks mandatory. All work places must be sanitised regularly, the government said. Employers have been urged to ensure all employees install the government's Aarogya Setu app on their phones.
In the earlier set of lockdown guidelines, the government had allowed offices to function but with only 33 per cent of staff allowed to attend office at any given time.
The fourth phase of the lockdown has transferred the onus of handling the COVID-19 crisis to state governments, allowing them to not only colour-code zones according to the number of cases in each but also have the final say on what will and will not be allowed in that area.
India has reported over 90,000 COVID-19 cases and 2,872 deaths so far, with 4,987 new cases reported in 24 hours, the Union Health Ministry said on Sunday morning.