On 02 July 2020, India marked a hundred days of COVID-19 outbreak across the country. One day before, it had entered Unlock 2.0, the second phase of easing lockdown restrictions nationwide. As of 01 July 2020, India had crossed 600,000 COVID-19 cases and suffered 17,495 fatalities.
With Unlock 2.0, the Indian government relaxed rules on interstate travel, business operations, flight travel, curfew and shop timings, and lockdowns. State policies in the wake of this announcement were dispersed; certain states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, and Tamil Nadu chose to continue with restrictions and lockdowns due to infection spikes while others introduced further relaxations.
Economically, Unlock 2.0 presented several states with the opportunity to reopen businesses in a staggered manner. Densely populated states such as Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu contain upwards of 5 million inactive workers searching for jobs. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) decided to allow all districts except for containment zones to gradually resume business activities in order to offset the accelerating unemployment across the country. Furthermore, in order to kickstart trade and commercial activity, most states have allowed free movement of goods carriers and commercial transport vehicles across state borders. Overall, Indian economy has functioned from 50 to 57 per cent of its usual operating capacity during Unlock 2.0; figures that are likely to report a steady rise over the medium term.
Most sectors apart from health remain adversely affected by COVID-19, specifically aviation, tourism, and hospitality. Several states dependent on tourism revenue decided to reopen borders for tourists, albeit with certain restrictions such as mandatory COVID-19 tests and registration. However, instances of states such as Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan have highlighted public reluctance to travel and the hospitality sector’s aversion to admitting tourists yet.
As per Bloomberg, India now has the fastest-growing COVID-19 numbers in the world, with social distancing protocols having been disturbed both by Unlock 2.0 and the ongoing monsoon season. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are among the worst-affected states in the country. Medical experts and administrative authorities – along with opposition parties – have indicated that the easing of restrictions under Unlock 2.0 has correlations with the spike in India’s COVID-19 epidemic.
With Unlock 2.0 slated to conclude on 31 July, a number of restrictions on public gatherings and areas of congregation such as schools, gyms, theatres etc. are likely to remain in place. It remains to be seen whether the next phase will include tighter restrictions or proceed along the projected path towards a semblance of economic and social normalcy.
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