Amusement parks will be allowed to reopen from Friday while shops and restaurants will be permitted to stay open beyond 10 pm in fresh easing of Covid curbs in Maharashtra. However, water rides will still remain off limits for visitors at the parks and the new extended timings for restaurants will be announced soon.
The decision was taken at the meeting of the state's Covid Task this afternoon which was attended by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray. The Nationalist Congress Party, a part of the ruling Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi alliance in the state, said more relaxations are needed to help businesses recover losses they endured due to the Covid-induced lockdowns and subsequent restrictions.
Uddhav Thackeray has directed officials to prepare guidelines to extend the operational hours for restaurants and shops.
He has also instructed the Public Health Department to coordinate with the Centre on the availability of vaccines for children and asked them to prepare a plan to inoculate children once the Centre approves it.
Although the second wave of the pandemic has subsided, the danger of a third wave is still there and it is very important to follow Covid protocols like wearing masks and keeping a safe distance, the chief minister said.
Theatres and cinema halls have also been green-lit to reopen from October 22 as Maharashtra's daily Covid numbers are on the decline with the state recording 1,715 infections in 24 hours Sunday. Mumbai, for the first time since March 26, 2020, reported zero deaths related to the virus on Sunday.
Last week, the state government issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) for cinema halls, auditoriums and drama theaters that will have been allowed to operate at 50% capacity. Social distancing and other Covid rules must be strictly followed, the guidelines said.
According to the guidelines, show timings must be "staggered", and only packaged food and beverages will be sold at the venues. However, the food and beverages cannot be taken inside the screening auditoriums. Cinema-goers must be vaccinated or their health status on Aarogya Setu app must be marked safe and they will be required to wear masks. Sanitisers must be made available inside the halls, toilets and other places.
The air-conditioning in cinema halls will have to be set at temperatures between 24 to 30 degrees Celsius and humidity levels between 40 to 70 per cent, as per the SOPs.