COVID-19: Industries operating outside city limits allowed to reopen from April 20

Wearing masks in public places mandatory, spitting a punishable offence, says Home Ministry


All industries operating in rural areas, outside city limits, will be allowed to reopen from April 20, provided they follow social distancing norms and other safeguards against COVID-19 infection, according to a new set of lockdown directives issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday.

Also, the “wearing of face covers and masks is compulsory in public places and work places.” Spitting is a punishable offence and sale of liquor, gutkha and tobacco should be strictly prohibited.

The revised guidelines permit relaxations in several sectors, to be implemented at the discretion of State and district authorities, in areas that have not been identified as infection hotspots.

Apart from rural industries, the guidelines permit construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and industrial projects in rural areas. Construction of renewable energy projects will also be allowed. In urban areas, only in situ construction projects will be allowed, if workers are available on site. Brick kilns in rural areas can also resume work.

Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) work will also be allowed with strict implementation of social distancing and face masks, with priority given to irrigation and water conservation works. Services provided by electricians, plumbers, IT repairs, motor mechanics and carpenters shall also be allowed.

IT firms

Manufacturing and other industrial activities in Special Economic Zones, Export Oriented Units and other industrial estates and townships can reopen, as long as arrangements are made for workers to stay within premises or in adjacent buildings. IT hardware manufacturing, food processing in rural areas and jute industries are among the other new exemptions to the lockdown. IT and IT-enabled services will also be permitted to function with 50% strength. Factories and office establishments that will be allowed to operate during the lockdown period must mandatorily provide medical insurance for workers, say the guidelines.

The revised guidelines issued by MHA said that travel by air, rail, metro, public buses, taxis, cab aggregators will remain suspended. Cinema halls and malls to remain shut. All social /religious gatherings are prohibited till May 3 and all industrial and commercial units, unless exempted, will remain shut.

The order issued by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said that States will decide the additional public activities to be allowed from April 20. MHA said the additional facilities will have to be based on strict compliance to the existing guidelines on lockdown measures.

In another letter to States, the Union Home Secretary emphasised that the guidelines will be withdrawn immediately if any of the lockdown measures are violated risking the spread of COVID-19, asserting that restrictions cannot be diluted under any circumstances.

The lockdown was extended till May 3 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and to “mitigate hardships” faced by people during the extended lockdown, certain additional activities are to be allowed from April 20.

The first set of such guidelines to be followed by States for “containment of COVID-19 epidemic” in the country was issued on March 24 under the Disaster Management Act, 2005, invoked for the first time in the country.