For Coronavirus-Free Districts, Centre's Lockdown Relaxation Plans

Of the 718 districts in the country, almost 370 are currently affected by coronavirus pandemic.

For Coronavirus-Free Districts, Centre's Lockdown Relaxation Plans

Many states have extended the number of markets and the last date to acquire products.

New Delhi:

A staggered approach will be adopted while opening up districts where no COVID-19 cases have been reported or which have managed to contain spread of the highly contagious coronavirus in the last seven days. The Union home ministry is working on a guideline in this regard on the basis of suggestions it got from various states.

Of the 718 districts in the country, almost 370 are currently affected by coronavirus pandemic. "Districts with COVID-19 positive cases (active or not) will be isolated and any inter-district movement will be strictly prohibited," a senior bureaucrat in ministry said.

For the districts in the green zone, the home ministry is planning to include agriculture, pharma and fishing industry in first round of relaxation, which would be granted from April 20 in a phased manner.

"States that have harvest season or sowing season, will also be granted relaxation," an official said. 

Many states, he said, have already extended the number of markets and the last date to acquire products from farmers given the rules of social distancing that is slowing down work. 

The state governments are also facilitating transport of labourers in view of the harvest season.

In Haryana, 500 markets were functioning. But due to COVID-19, the number has been increased to 2,000. Even the date of acquisition has been extended till June 30. "Each day, only 100 farmers would be allowed to visit the mandis," a senior official in the Haryana government said. The administration is also thinking about distributing gunny bags to farmers so they can store their produce till the time their turn comes, he said. 

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In case of pharmaceutical companies, permission for movement of workers has already been granted by different states. "Companies and units have been requested to allow workers to stay in their compounds adopting social distancing norms. The states have been advised to provide every help," said another official.

Reports reaching the North Block indicate that in this sector, the capacity utilisation is between 60 and 70 per cent, which is higher than in most other industries.

The fishery sector -- which contributes around $70 million a year to the exchequer -- is going to get relaxations as well. "Most workers stay in high seas and even when they get back, they are in the jetties," said an official in Goa.

Fresh guidelines are also being worked on to expand the logistics of movement regarding non-essential goods between states and coronavirus-free districts. Transport, it is being planned that goods transport (essential and non-essential) shall avoid passing through affected areas unless its destination is the affected district. 
Highway patrol will ensure that dhabas along highway will be operation only in unaffected areas.

Relaxation would also be given to construction activity in unaffected areas where labour is available locally. 

The district magistrates will be expected to implement the containment measures. Legal action will be taken against violators, sources said.