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Lockdown 4.0: Extended until May 31, Aarogya Setu no longer mandatory for employees

COVID-19, mask

The Ministry of Home Affairs has released its guidelines for lockdown 4.0 that the National Disaster Management Authority extended until May 31. Aarogya Setu is no longer mandatory. However, employers “on best effort basis should ensure” that the app is installed by all employees with “compatible mobile phones”. Unlike the previous guidelines, the new guidelines will not hold employers responsible for failing to do so. District authorities “may advise individuals” to install the app.

However, as per MHA’s orders dated April 29 and May 1 for movement of migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, students and other stranded people, on their arrival at their destination, they “may” be encouraged to download the app. Also, it is not clear if central government employees, who had been mandated by the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), or Prasar Bharati employees, will also be similarly guided by “best effort”. It is also not clear what will happen if employers make it mandatory for employees to download the app on their phones.

We had earlier reported that the government was reviewing its earlier decision to mandate Aarogya Setu. Now that the app is no longer mandatory, it remains to be seen what will happen in Kerala High Court tomorrow as the court hears three petitions against mandating it.

In addition to the earlier defined Red, Orange, Green and Containment Zones, the new guidelines also talk about a Buffer Zone which, as per a letter sent by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare Secretary Preeti Sudan to all states and UTs, will be delineated around each containment zone and be defined by the district administration or local urban bodies.

Unlike earlier, classification of Red, Orange and Green Zones will be done by the state and UT governments, instead of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Containment Zones and Buffer Zones will be demarcated by district authorities.

  • Containment Zones: only essential activities will be allowed, and strict perimeter control will be maintained to ensure no movement of people in and out of the zones, except for medical emergencies and to maintain supply of essential goods and services. There will be “intensive contact tracing, house-to-house surveillance, and other clinical interventions, as required” in these zones.

In other zones except Containment Zones, all activities will be permitted except the ones that have been specifically prohibited. States and UTs may decide to classify more districts as Red and Orange Zone, but they cannot “dilute these guidelines” in any manner. These guidelines will be enforced by the district magistrates.

Other restrictions

  • Night curfew between 7 pm and 7 am “except for essential activities”. Local authorities will issue orders under “appropriate provisions of law” such as “prohibitory orders [curfew] under Section 144 of CrPC”.
  • Inter- and intra-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses will be allowed with mutual consent of the states/UTs involved, except in containment zones.
  • Metro services still remain prohibited across the country.
  • All domestic and international air travel remains prohibited, except for domestic medical services, air ambulance and for security purposes as permitted by MHA.
  • Restaurants can only delivery food; no in-house dining. Hotels and restaurants will remain closed unless they are meant for government officials, healthcare workers, quarantined people, or stranded persons (including tourists).
  • Cinema halls, shopping malls, gyms, pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places remain closed.
  • Sports complexes and stadia will be allowed to open without spectators.
  • No social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions are permitted. All religious places and places of worship will remain closed. Religious congregations are “strictly prohibited”.
  • Shops will not allow more than 5 people “at the shop”. It’s not clear if this is meant for larger shops as well.
  • Workplaces must follow staggered business hours, and provide “thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizer” at “all entry and exit points and common areas”. However, work from home is encouraged as far as possible.

Update (May 18, 2020 3 pm): Updated with definition of buffer zone and the related letter. Originally published on May 17, 2020 at 7:05 pm.

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