India is going into a country-wide lockdown from today midnight for 21 days.
While this may be a new experience for people in many parts of the country, for those in places like Mumbai, Bangalore, Kerala and Delhi, lockdowns are already in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Based on the rules implemented in other places, here are the rules and guidelines that you should follow in case of a Coronavirus COVID 19 related lockdown.
UPDATE: See the images below for the full list of restrictions announced by the Union Home Ministry today. These guidelines can be slightly modified by state governments, but the overall format will remain the same.
First rule is about transportation. After a lockdown is imposed, you cannot travel as you wish.
You can only travel for genuine emergencies: For example, you can travel if someone is sick and you need to take him or her to the hospital.
You can also travel if you work in any ‘essential service’ — for example, milk or food distribution, or you work in a petrol pump, media and so on.
Meeting relatives, attending marriages, sightseeing etc are not emergencies and traveling for the above purposes will invite prosecution.
Under a COVID-19 lockdown, large modes of transport, such as trains, buses and vans, will remain unavailable to the public.
Some states allow autorickshaws and taxis to ply, but only to cater to those in real emergencies. Similarly, private cars and bikes will be allowed to run, but only in case of emergencies.
Police will stop and ask people the purpose of their travel, and if it is not an emergency, they may file a case.
OFFICE / SHOP RESTRICTIONS
The second restriction is on the functioning of shops and offices.
Only shops and offices required for ‘essential services’ are allowed to open. All other shops and offices must remain closed.
The list of essential services is published by the state government, and varies from place to place.
Usually, the list contains items such as grocery shops, petrol pumps, newpapers, posts (and in some places couriers), electricity, telecom, PDS and so on.
Vegetable and fruit markets, and the transport of perishable agricultural commodities, are included in the list of essential services.
However, due to the chances of Coronavirus spreading in these locations, local administrations are likely to put certain restrictions such as number of people allowed and so on to prevent crowding.
The central government has clarified that restrictions should not be imposed on the movement of goods in general, even if they are not meant for essential services. For example, movement of furniture or electronics items should not be prevented or hampered, as goods movement is not currently seen as a big contributor to the spread of the virus.
Shops such as those selling textiles and fabrics, electronics, hardware etc., hotels, movie theaters etc. are not part of ‘essential services’ and remain closed.
Similarly, offices of companies that provide entertainment, advertising, accounting services, architects etc are also not considered essential services, and people who work in such companies cannot go to their offices. These offices must remain closed. Employees can, however, work from home.
In some states, outsourcing companies have been given the status of essential services, but only ‘mission critical employees’ are allowed to come to office. Others must work from home, as far as possible. HR, accounting and so on are usually asked to work from home.
In other states, IT and BPO services are not considered part of essential services, and the offices are not allowed to be opened.
When there is an all-India lock-down in place, people are not allowed to gather in groups. Normally, people are not allowed to gather in groups of more than 3 or 5 people in any public place, with the exact number depending on the state.
Functions such as weddings cannot be hosted or conducted in the usual fashion.
In some states, it is possible for the bride/bridegroom to travel to his/her would-be partner’s house or registration office to get married. However, as far as possible, it is advisable to postpone weddings.
Other functions, such as speeches, demonstrations, classes, religious functions, training camps and so on are banned.
There is no ban on conducting any of these things among the members of a household. The only prohibition is on the assembly of people from the outside.
There is also no restriction on online activities, including attending group conference calls and other ‘group’ events.
FOOD AND WATER
People will be allowed to go out for getting food, water and fuel, as these are considered essential commodities.
However, it would be advisable to buy food and water for at least 1 week at a time. It is also possible that local authorities will put time restrictions on when citizens can go out to buy food and water.
Hotels and restaurants are generally not allowed to open. However, in certain areas — such as places inhabited by students — local authorities are likely to allow take-aways and parcels.
Similarly, online food ordering is likely to be permitted in most cases.
Since most of the shops will be shut during a lockdown or curfew, people will have to rely on e-commerce portals to buy non-food items.
However, most states do not include e-commerce activities — including delivery and warehouse operations — in the list of essential services, and these services may get disrupted.
However, the central government has written to the states advising them to include e-commerce activities — including warehouses, delivery and courier, and offices — in the list of essential services. It is up to each state to implement the suggestion.
Some states may still disallow it, fearing that movement of parcels may lead to the spread of the virus.