States can take call on reopening schools; cinemas, B2B exhibitions from October 15: MHA
States will have the flexibility to decide on reopening schools while cinema theatres, entertainment parks and business to business (B2B) exhibitions will be allowed from October 15, the new guidelines issued on Wednesday by the Centre to further ease Covid-19 restrictions said.
The 'reopening' guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) that virtually opened up the whole country also further relaxed restrictions on religious, political, social and other gatherings by entirely lifting the cap of 100 people after October 15. However in closed spaces, a maximum of 50% hall capacity will be allowed with a ceiling of 200 persons.
International air travel other than those permitted by the government will also continue to remain suspended. Lockdown in containment zones will continue till October 31.
The guidelines are no more called 'unlock guidelines', which were issued for months since June, but 're-opening' guidelines, with the government indicating that most of the restrictions have been lifted except in containment zones.
Ending speculation over educational institutions and putting the ball in states' court, the Centre allowed states to decide on reopening schools and coaching institutions after October 15 in a graded manner. However, schools should not enforce attendance and children should be allowed only after obtaining written consent from parents.
While emphasising that online and distance learning should be encouraged, the order said students who prefer to attend online classes in schools which conduct such classes should be permitted to do so. States should prepare their own Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and schools, which are allowed to open, should follow it.
The states should consult school authorities and a decision should be taken based on their assessment of the situation.
A decision on reopening of colleges and higher education institutes has been left to the Department of Higher Education (DHE) in the Ministry of Education but after a consultation with the MHA.
However, higher education institutions only for research scholars (PhD) and post-graduate students in science and technology streams requiring laboratory/experimental works will be permitted to open October 15.
Heeding to the demand from the entertainment industry, the government also allowed opening of cinemas, theatres and multiplexes outside containment zones from October 15 but with 50% capacity.
Entertainment parks and similar places as well as swimming pools used for training of sportspersons will be allowed to open from October 15. Business to Business (B2B) exhibitions will also return from mid-October, in a boost to the sector.
The guidelines also reiterated its warning to states against imposing local lockdown and if a state wants to impose local lockdown outside containment zones - state-wide, district, sub-district or city level -- it will have to consult with the Centre.
In Unlock 4.0 guidelines issued for September, the government had allowed resumption of metro services in a graded manner from September 7 while political, social and other gatherings of up to 100 people were permitted from September 21.