India and Pakistan ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions

India and Pakistan ease coronavirus lockdown restrictions


India has allowed a limited reopening of retailers in neighbourhoods and residential areas, a month after the state 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.


Pakistan using intelligence services to trace coronavirus cases
The sale of liquor and other non-essential items will still be prohibited, and no shops in large market places, multi-brand and single-brand malls are allowed to open for business till May 3, when the nationwide lockdown is thanks to end.

The relaxation also wouldn't be applicable in many hotspots and containment zones across the country.

India has reported 24,530 cases of the coronavirus and 780 deaths, and authorities are putting in new teams to target compliance and implementation of lockdown measures.

Last week, the govt allowed resumption of producing and farming activities in rural areas as scores of daily wage-earners were left without work.



According to an Aljazeera news source Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from the capital, New Delhi, said: "Shops being allowed to open may be a huge relief to the scores of Indians in non-hotspot zones who own small, stand-alone shops."

"The Indian government, like many others, say that they're just trying to balance saving lives and livelihood which is why we are seeing the newest easing of restrictions here," she added.

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

However, it's switching to a so-called "smart lockdown" from Saturday under which it'll implement targeted tracking and tracing of cases while allowing some industrial and commercial activities to start under safety guidelines.

"Isolating these cases and their contacts will improve our ability to contain the disease alongside allowing the economy to function and folks to induce employment," said Asad Umar, Pakistan's planning minister, who also oversees the coronavirus national response body.

"This upcoming month of Ramadan are decisive," he said, emphasising that adhering to the government's virus containment measures will allow other parts of the economy to restart.

Prayer congregations for Ramadan have also been allowed in Pakistan with the exception of the southern province of Sindh, where doctors have warned the virus could spread rapidly.

In Karachi, the capital of Sindh and Pakistan's largest city, most mosques were closed to the general public for the Ramadan evensong gatherings, which began on Friday.

The country's key medical associations have warned the govt of great consequences if a "complete" lockdown isn't imposed.

"Allowing the mass gatherings at mosques or markets may result in an unmanageable situation because the country's weak health system is already overburdened," Qaisar Sajjad, secretary-general of the Pakistan Medical Association (PMA), said on Friday.

Pakistan's ISI service is supporting the govt in tracing and tracking folks that may are in reality in with those that test positive for the virus.

As of Saturday, Pakistan reported 11,940 cases of infections, including 253 deaths.

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