The nationwide lockdown in India in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has been extended until May 3. The Indian government has permitted the operation of certain additional business activities from April 20 onwards.
On April 15, the Ministry of Home Affairs extended the lockdown till May 3 and issued revised guidelines (Revised Guidelines) on the lockdown. The Revised Guidelines set out, among others, (a) the additional activities that are permitted from April 20 onwards, and (b) the standard operating procedures to be followed by establishments and work places that are permitted to operate. The Revised Guidelines aim to mitigate the economic distress faced by the people as a result of the lockdown that came into effect on March 25.
The additional activities that are permitted from April 20 include the following:
The activities permitted by the Revised Guidelines cannot be undertaken if they fall within geographical areas demarcated as hotspots or containment zones (i.e., areas that have a large number of COVID-19 cases) by the relevant states/local authorities, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. In such demarcated areas, only essential services and certain government services are permitted.
The additional permitted activities set out in the Revised Guidelines can only be undertaken once the relevant establishments and workplaces have put in place arrangements implementing the standard operating procedures set out in the Revised Guidelines. The local authorities in the relevant states will verify compliance with the standard operating procedures, which include
Noncompliance with the Revised Guidelines can result in an offence under applicable law, which may include imprisonment and/or a fine.
By expanding the list of permitted activities, the Revised Guidelines aim to gradually increase economic activity in the country, to alleviate the social and economic impact of the lockdown. However, India continues to see an increase in COVID-19 cases. Both the federal and state governments are likely to issue further directions on the lockdown as the situation progresses.
In view of the extended nationwide lockdown, the travel restrictions discussed in our earlier Lawflash, COVID-19 in India: Travel Restrictions and Lockdown Measures, have been extended till May 3.
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Jonathan H. Hines
*A Registered Foreign Lawyer of Morgan Lewis Stamford LLC, a Singapore law corporation affiliated with Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP