India today extended the countrywide coronavirus-induced lockdown till May 31 and framed new guidelines that largely leave it to states to decide on colour-coding of contagion hotspots and allowing shops and markets, among other economic activities, to resume functioning outside containment zones.
The Indian government, however, made it clear that only essential activities would be allowed in containment zones with a high incidence of coronavirus cases, as per the new guidelines. No economic activity would be allowed in containment zones.
The new guidelines retained the bar on air travel, metro rail, areas which draw a large number of people -- shopping malls and multiplexes, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services.
All places of worship will be closed for public and religious congregations, which are strictly prohibited, the guidelines also said.
Workplaces and shops can function but with restrictions, said the guidelines which came less than a week after Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised lockdown in a "completely different form", with new rules.
The new guidelines stipulate that the practice of working from home should be followed where possible and staggering of work hours should be adopted at work places where there is provision for thermal scanning, hand washing facilities and sanitisers, alongside rules of social distancing being maintained.
Under the new guidelines, markets and all shops can reopen outside containment zones but a final decision rests with the states. If open, these shops and markets should have staggered timing to ensure social distancing.
Sports complexes and stadia can open but spectators will not be allowed, the new guidelines read.
The fourth phase of lockdown came as the total number of coronavirus cases across India rose to 90,927, recording the biggest single-day jump of 4,987 new patients today. So far 2,872 patients died and more than 34,000 patients recovered from Covid-19 in the country.