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16-Apr-2020

16 April 2020

Introduction

To curb the outbreak of COVID-19 in India, the Government of India had imposed a lockdown on 24 March 2020 for a period of 21 days till 14 April 2020. The said lockdown has now been further extended till 3 May 2020 by the Prime Minister and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). They released an order dated 14 April 2020, inter alia, formalising the extension and stating that the MHA guidelines issued previously on 24 March 2020 along with subsequent amendments will continue to remain in force till 3 May 2020. The MHA further released an order dated 15 April 2020, detailing additional activities which will be allowed to operate albeit with certain restrictions (Guidelines).

The Guidelines come in the backdrop of massive economic disruption and social distress being seen in India as a consequence of the stringent lockdown measures that have been in place. The Guidelines have been issued with the intention of bringing about a gradual increase in economic activity by including a broader set of activities and businesses that will be allowed to operate from 20 April 2020.

What has changed?

The Guidelines have introduced a slew of changes, some of which would come as a big relief to a lot of manufacturing and services sector companies. They allow IT/ITES establishments to function with 50% strength. Earlier only those IT/ITES establishments supporting essential functions were allowed to operate. Further, industrial establishments in rural areas (outside the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities), manufacturing and other industrial establishments in Special Economic Zones and Export Oriented Units, industrial estates and townships will also be allowed to operate from 20 April 2020 provided they fulfil certain prescribed conditions. Manufacturing of packaging material, manufacturing of IT hardware, the jute industry, construction of renewable energy projects, e-commerce companies (for all services), courier services, etc. are some of the other activities that have been added to the exemption list.

Additionally, private vehicles will also be allowed to operate  for emergency services (including for medical and veterinary care) and for procuring essential commodities. In such cases, one passenger besides the private vehicle driver can be permitted in the backseat in case of four-wheelers and the driver alone in the case of two wheelers. Individuals travelling to their respective workplaces and back in the exempted categories are also allowed to travel subject to instructions by the State/UT/local authorities.

While various activities have been included in the exempted list, it is pertinent to note that these activities will first need to be operationalised by the State governments/ UTs /district administrations based on strict compliance with the existing Guidelines and will need to follow the Standard Operating Procedures for Social Distancing (SOP), which have been prescribed as a part of the Guidelines. The SOP, inter alia, provides for areas in an establishment that would need to be disinfected (e.g. entrance, cafeteria, meeting rooms, lifts, washrooms etc), availability of transportation facilities, provision for thermal scanning of everyone entering or exiting the premises, provision of medical insurance for all employees and provision of a gap of at least one hour between shifts.

Further, where an area is demarcated as a ‘hotspot’ or a containment zone, the activities allowed in these Guidelines will not be permitted. Also, activities allowed under the Guidelines may be withdrawn immediately if any of the lockdown measures are violated, thereby risking the spread of COVID-19.

We have set out below a comparative table capturing some of the key activities as introduced by the Guidelines:

Exempt Establishment

Consolidated MHA Guidelines dated 24 March 2020, as further modified by orders dated 25 and 27 March 2020, 2, 3 and 10 April 2020.

MHA Guidelines dated 15 April 2020*

Commercial and Private Establishments

Print and electronic media including broadcasting, DTH and cable services

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

IT/ITES

For essential services only  (work from home as far as possible)

Allowed to operate with up to 50% strength

Data and call centres for government activities only

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Government approved common service centres at gram panchayat level

-

Allowed to operate

E-commerce companies

Delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment through e-commerce companies allowed to operate.

Allowed to operate

 

Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions

Courier services

Post offices allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Cold storage and warehousing services

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate, including at ports, airports, railway stations, container depots, individual units and other links in the logistical chain

Private security services

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate including facilities management services for maintenance and upkeep of office and residential complexes

Hotels, homestays, lodges and motels which are accommodating tourists and persons stranded due to lockdown, medical and emergency staff, air and sea crew

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Establishments used/earmarked for quarantine facilities

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Services provided by self-employed persons, for instance electricians, IT repairs, plumbers, motor mechanics and carpenters

 -

Allowed to operate

Power generation, transmission and distribution units and services

Allowed to operate as public utilities and vis-à-vis commercial and private establishments

Allowed to operate as public utilities

Industries/Industrial Establishments (government and private)

Industries operating in rural areas, i.e. outside the limits of municipal corporations and municipalities

-           

Allowed to operate

Manufacturing and other industrial establishments with access control in SEZs and EOUs, industrial estates and industrial townships. 

 -

Allowed to operate

 

These establishments shall make arrangements for stay of workers within their premises and/or adjacent buildings as far as possible. Transportation of workers to the workplace shall be arranged by the employers through dedicated transport by ensuring social distancing

Manufacturing units of essential goods including drugs, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, their raw materials and intermediates

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Food processing industries

-           

Allowed to operate in rural areas i.e. outside the limits of the municipal corporations and municipalities

Products and units which require continuous process

Allowed to operate after obtaining permission from the State government

Allowed to operate including their supply chain

Manufacturing of IT hardware

 -

Allowed to operate

Coal production, mines and mineral production, their transportation, supply of explosives and activities incidental to mining activities

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Manufacturing units of packaging material

Allowed to operate for food items, drugs and pharmaceutical devices only

Allowed to operate

Tea industry, including plantation with maximum 50% workers

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate including coffee and rubber plantations with maximum 50% workers

 

Processing, packaging, sale and marketing of tea, coffee, rubber and cashew with maximum of 50% workers allowed to operate as well

Manufacturing and packaging units of fertilizers, pesticides and seeds

Allowed to operate

Allowed to operate

Jute industries

 -

Allowed to operate with staggered shifts and social distancing

Oil and Gas exploration/ refinery

 -

Allowed to operate

Brick kilns

 -

Allowed to operate in rural areas i.e. outside the limits of the municipal corporations and municipalities

Construction Activities

Construction of roads, irrigation projects, buildings and all kinds of industrial projects including MSMEs

 -

Allowed to operate in rural areas i.e. outside the limits of the municipal corporations and municipalities and all kinds of projects in industrial estates

Construction of renewable energy projects

-

Allowed to operate

Continuation of works in construction projects

-

Allowed to operate within the limits of the municipal corporations and municipalities, where workers are available on site and no workers are required to be brought from outside

Supply of essential goods

All facilities in the supply chain of essential goods, whether involved in manufacturing, wholesale or retail of such goods through local stores, large brick and mortar stores, or e-commerce companies  

-

Allowed to operate without any restriction on opening and closing hours

 

These will need to ensure that social distancing norms are complied with

Shops and carts including ration shops (under PDS) dealing with food and groceries (for daily use), hygiene items, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, poultry, meat and fish, animal feed, fodder, etc.

Allowed to operate

 

Fertilizers, seed and pesticides  also included

 

However, hygiene items were not specifically included in the list

Allowed to operate (including kirana and single shops selling essential goods), without any restriction on opening and closing hours

 

These will need to ensure that social distancing norms are complied with

Home Delivery

District authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimize movement of individuals outside their homes

District authorities may encourage and facilitate home delivery to minimize movement of individuals outside their homes

Movement of persons

Private vehicles for emergency services including for veterinary care, and for procuring essential commodities

 -

Allowed to operate. One passenger besides the private vehicle driver can be permitted in the back seat  in case of four wheelers

 

However, in case of two wheelers, only the driver is to be permitted

All personnel travelling to their place of work and back in exempted categories

Transportation of medical staff permitted

Allowed to operate as per instructions of the State/UT local authority

* Additional activities have been allowed which will come into effect on 20 April 2020. These limited exemptions will be operationalised by States/ UTs/ district administrations based on strict compliance with the existing guidelines. Further, prior to allowing these select additional activities to operate, the States/ UTs/ district administrations shall ensure preparatory arrangements with regard to SOP for social distancing in offices, workplaces, factories and establishments.

Conclusion

The revised Guidelines would definitely alleviate some of the hardships faced by businesses and the public and will hopefully start the long road back to economic recovery. That said, a lot would be dependent upon the manner in which companies and persons adhere to the SOP and whether there is a spike in COVID-19 cases as a result of increased social activity. The manner in which these Guidelines are followed and implemented by the respective State governments/ UTs / district administrations would also determine how effectively the enhanced services would be available to the general public.

-          Vinay Joy (Partner) and Srishti Ramkrishnan (Associate)

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