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Maharashtra stays firm, no easing of lockdown for Mumbai & Pune

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MUMBAI: Any hopes of some easing of curbs for Mumbaikars during the nationwide lockdown that has been extended by two weeks were dashed on Saturday after the state government issued revised guidelines to be applicable post-May 3, giving little leeway in the continuing Covid-19 crisis to the city’s residents as well as to those in other municipal corporations of MMR and the corporations of Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Malegaon.

With the lockdown extended till May 17, there are 14 districts in Maharashtra which are red zones, including Greater Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Palghar and Nashik. Sixteen districts are orange zones, and six are in the safe green zone. Of the 14 red zone districts, five are in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), Pune and Malegaon, where restrictions have been tightened for the next two weeks. Nine other districts have been allowed some activities with restrictions.

An order issued by state chief secretary Ajoy Mehta on Saturday said private offices will not be allowed to operate with 33% strength in these areas. Asked specifically about Mumbai, given its status as the country’s financial capital, a top government official told TOI, “Offices will not be permitted to open in Mumbai because it is a red zone.”

The official, however, said that after a few days, the state could review this decision and consider opening offices, say with 10% attendance, if staff can travel in private vehicles.

The norms laid down by the Centre on Friday set the framework for states while allowing them to increase restrictions, though no restrictions could be diluted.

Liquor shops too cannot open in the red zones in Maharashtra. A senior bureaucrat told TOI that liquor shops in the municipal limits of MMR, Pune, Pimpri-Chinchwad and Malegaon will remain closed. While there are a total of 4,200 liquor shops in the state, including country and IMFL stores, 1,400 of these are located in MMR, Pune, Pimpri- Chinchwad and Malegaon. Elsewhere in the state, district collectors and superintendents of the excise department have been empowered to take a decision depending on local conditions.

The bureaucrat said comprehensive guidelines on liquor shops will be issued on Sunday or Monday. “We are still studying the situation. We will ensure that even if shops are opened in permitted areas, social distancing is maintained,” he said.

According to the state guidelines, individuals and vehicles can move only for permitted activities. Four-wheeler vehicles will have a maximum of two passengers besides the vehicle driver, while a pillion-rider will not be allowed on two-wheelers.

While the Centre had allowed domestic help, the new directive issued by the state on Saturday did not mention it. The restriction on movement would apply to domestic help unless the employer or employee are able to obtain permission for movement from the collector or police. In Mumbai, the issue of whether to allow maids to enter apartments has become a serious topic of discussion in many housing societies, especially after the Centre relaxed the rule on Friday.

State government sources said maids are not considered part of essential services. “Even if they travel from a non-containment zone to a housing society in a non-containment area in Mumbai, it will not be allowed,” the sources said.

All standalone shops, neighbourhood shops and shops in residential complexes, both essential and non-essential, are permitted to remain open in urban areas, but not in municipal corporation areas of MMR, Malegaon, Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad corporations.

“In case there are more than five shops in the lane or road, then only shops selling essential commodities shall remain open,” the state notification said.

In a relief to many builders, the state has allowed construction to commence at sites only where labourers are already available. No worker can be brought in from outside. In MMR alone, there are 1,200 such construction sites with 70,000 labourers, according to the builder’s association, MCHI-CREDAI. All pre-monsoon work too has been permitted.

E-commerce activity will be permitted only in respect of essential goods, medicine and medical equipment. All industrial work is allowed in rural areas of red zones (in MMR there are rural areas in parts of Vasai-Virar, Palghar, Bhiwandi and Raigad).

All government offices will function with 100% attendance but again not in the urban areas of the MMR, Pune, Malegaon and Pimpri-Chinchwad municipal corporations.

Following the Centre’s directives, the state has issued new guidelines saying that the movement of individuals, for all non-essential activities, shall remain strictly prohibited between 7pm to 7am.

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