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India eases Covid-19 lockdown, allowing some shops to reopen on limited basis as Modi preaches virtues of ‘self-reliance’

India eases Covid-19 lockdown, allowing some shops to reopen on limited basis as Modi preaches virtues of ‘self-reliance’
New Delhi has given the green light for small shops across India to open their doors under certain conditions, as the country begins to relax far-reaching lockdown measures brought to stop the spread of Covid-19.

The Ministry of Home Affairs issued an order late on Friday night granting permission to “non-essential” shop owners to get back to work starting on Saturday, asking only that they continue to abide by social distancing guidelines and don masks and gloves in public to limit transmission of the lethal virus.

“All registered shops under the Shops and Establishment Act ...including shops in residential complexes, neighborhoods and standalone shops [are] exempted from lockdown restrictions,” the ministry said in its order, adding that businesses must allow only half of their employees to return to work, and that the relaxed rules would not apply in “hotspots” or “containment zones” hit especially hard by Covid-19.

Malls and shopping complexes remain closed, however, presumably due to the greater infection risk associated with larger numbers of people gathering in one enclosed space.

The move comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended the country’s lockdown earlier this month, arguing the measures were working but had not yet halted the outbreak and setting a new expiration date for early May. The PM did note that the restrictions could be eased in some areas after showing a declining infection rate, and with the Health Ministry reporting that 15 districts across the country had not confirmed a single new case over the last 28 days, some regions appear to have met that criteria.

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As India seems to be faring rather well in comparison to other densely populated nations in terms of stopping the spread of the deadly disease, Modi has argued that the most important lesson India has learned from the crisis is that it must always rely only on its own people and resources.

[The pandemic] has taught us that we have to be self-reliant and self-sufficient. It has taught us that we should not look for solutions outside the country. This is the biggest lesson we have learned.

India has confirmed 24,447 coronavirus infections – 1,752 on Friday alone – and 780 deaths in its epidemic, according to data gathered by Johns Hopkins University, with Maharashtra continuing to be the worst-hit state, counting some 6,817 cases. According to government statistics, the country’s mortality rate hovers somewhere around 3 percent, below the world average, while health officials say India could flatten its ‘curve’ of new cases by May 3, the day its lockdown is set to lift.

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