BFF-32 India announces major easing of coronavirus lockdown

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HEALTH-VIRUS-INDIA-LEAD

India announces major easing of coronavirus lockdown

NEW DELHI, May 30, 2020 (BSS/AFP) – India said Saturday it would
begin a major relaxation of the world’s biggest coronavirus lockdown
from early June, even as the country saw another record rise in
confirmed infections.

Efforts to contain the disease saw the shutdown of virtually all
economic activity in late March, putting hundreds of millions out of
work almost overnight.

Millions of migrant workers fled home to their villages, many of
them walking hundreds of kilometres and some dying on the way.

Prime Minister Narenda Modi conceded that much of the country had
since “undergone tremendous suffering” in an open letter to the public
on Saturday.

The end of the lockdown will be staged and for now will not include
some “containment zones” where high infection rates have been
detected, according to the home ministry.

But elsewhere, places of religious worship, hotels, restaurants and
shopping malls will be allowed to reopen as normal from June 8.

Schools and universities will resume classes after discussions with
Indian state authorities, with a decision due in July.

The ministry said that international air travel, mass transit,
cinemas, swimming pools and bars will remain closed for the time
being.

Sport is still on hold, with the lucrative Indian Premier League
(IPL) cricket tournament yet to resume after it was postponed last
month, and political and religious events with “large congregations”.

The nationwide evening curfew was also eased and will now begin two
hours later at 9:00 pm.

No movement in or out of containment zones will be allowed, with
exceptions for medical emergencies and the supply of essential goods
and services.

In these areas there will be “intensive contact tracing,
house-to-house surveillance and other clinical interventions,” the
ministry said.

The home ministry’s announcement came even after the world’s
second-most populous country announced a fresh record in the number of
confirmed COVID-19 infections, taking the total to almost 175,000
cases with nearly 5,000 deaths.

– Massive slowdown –

Government data released Friday gave an indication of the
preliminary toll of the lockdown on Asia’s third-biggest economy,
which grew at its slowest pace in at least two decades last quarter.

The period included only the very beginning of the national
quarantine, and analysts say a massive slowdown has taken place since.

Modi’s government had already taken some steps to ease the economic
pain of the lockdown.

Factory and farm operations were allowed to resume in areas with no
or few cases — although many are finding problems sourcing workers.

Domestic flights also resumed earlier this month and some trains
are running on India’s vast rail network.

Earlier this month Modi announced a $266 billion package — 10
percent of the country’s GDP — to revive the battered economy.

BSS/AFP/MRU/2102hrs