India and Pakistan ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions

India and Pakistan ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions

India and Pakistan ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions

India has allowed a limited reopening of shops in neighbourhoods and residential areas, a month after the nation went into lockdown to curb the spread of the coronavirus, officials said.

The federal home ministry announced on Friday that retail shops could start operations from Saturday with a 50-percent reduction in staff, and enforcing appropriate physical distancing, wearing of masks and gloves during work.

The sale of liquor and other non-essential items will continue to be prohibited, and no shops in large market places, multi-brand and single-brand malls will be allowed to open for business till May 3, when lockdown is due to end.

The relaxation also would not be applicable in hundreds of hotspots and containment zones across the country.

India has reported 24,530 cases of the coronavirus and 780 deaths, and authorities are setting up new teams to focus on compliance and implementation of lockdown measures.

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Pakistan, the government has extended the nationwide lockdown till May 9.

However, it is switching to a so-called “smart lockdown” from Saturday under which it will implement targeted tracking and tracing of cases while allowing some industrial and commercial activities to begin under safety guidelines.

“Isolating these cases and their contacts will improve our ability to contain the disease alongside allowing the economy to function and people to get employment,” said Asad Umar, Pakistan’s planning minister, who also oversees the coronavirus national response body.

“This upcoming month of Ramadan will be decisive,” he said, emphasising that adhering to the government’s virus containment measures will allow other parts of the economy to restart.