NEW DELHI, May 17 (Xinhua) -- India will enter the fourth phase of the nationwide lockdown imposed to contain the COVID-19 pandemic starting May 18.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last week that the current lockdown will be extended with effect from May 18.
Fresh guidelines were issued on Sunday by the Ministry of Home (Internal Security) Affairs for the fourth phase of lockdown till May 31, announcing some relaxations like opening of stadiums and sports complexes but without spectators, allowing inter-state movement of vehicles but with mutual consent of the states, movement of essential goods, and restaurants permitted to operate kitchens and home delivery of prepared food items.
However, all trains, flights, both domestic and international, Metro Rail services, all schools, colleges, educational institutions, hotels, and other hospitality services, cinema halls, shopping malls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, theaters, bars, and auditoriums will remain closed, as per the government order.
The decision was taken by the federal government after Modi recently consulted chief ministers of all states regarding the lockdown.
During the extended lockdown, movement of people will remain strictly prohibited from 7:00 p.m. till 7:00 a.m., except for essential services. People aged above 65 years, pregnant women, children aged below 10 years shall stay at home except for essential and health purposes.
As per the latest figures issued by the federal health ministry at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday, the total number of COVID-19 cases in India surpassed the 90,000 mark, reaching 90,927, as the death toll stood at 2,872.
The highest one-day spike of 4,987 cases was recorded from Saturday till Sunday morning. According to ministry officials, so far 34,109 people have been discharged from hospitals after showing improvement.
"The number of active cases in the country right now is 53,946," reads the information.
Sunday marks the 54th straight day of the ongoing lockdown across the country.
The southwestern state of Maharashtra continued to be the worst affected with 30,706 COVID-19 cases and 1,135 deaths, followed by the western state of Gujarat with 10,988 cases and 625 deaths, the southern state of Tamil Nadu with 10,585 cases and 74 deaths, and Delhi with 9,333 cases and 129 deaths.
With all transport services, including road, rail and air, suspended amid the lockdown, exodus of migrant laborers, who were stranded in other states, to their home states continued. Thousands of them rode trucks involved in ferrying essential goods, while many could be seen walking long distances on foot.
The country's economy has been hit hard over the past two months of lockdown, with the international rating agency Moody's earlier this month projecting India's growth at zero percent for the current fiscal year.
In a bid to boost India's economy, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on May 10 issued guidelines for restarting manufacturing industries, the thrust of which was to ensure safety of big industrial plants involving hazardous activities, sanitization of working places, and measures to protect the workers.
"While restarting the unit, consider the first week as the trial or test run period, ensure all safety protocols, and not try to achieve high production targets," said the new guidelines.
The guidelines were issued under four different heads -- Storage of Raw Material, Manufacturing Processes, Storage for Products, and Guidelines for Workers.
Taking a cue from the disaster that happened in the southern town of Vishakhapatnam, or Vizag, days ago in which at least 11 people died after "styrene" gas leaked from a chemical plant that remained shut for over 40 days, the MHA issued guidelines ensuring safe restart of plants having hazardous materials.
It also advised the state governments to ensure that the off-site disaster management plan of the respective Major Accidental Hazard (MAH) units are up to date and preparedness to implement is high.
To ensure the safety of workers, the guidelines said factory premises should be sanitized round-the-clock.
Earlier this week, the country's car major Maruti Suzuki India Limited restarted one of its manufacturing plants in the northern state of Haryana.