Critical Alert

Authorities relaxing business, transport restrictions in western India as of Oct. 2. Other COVID-19 controls in effect through Oct. 31.

Alert Begins 02 Oct 2020 02:36 AM UTC
Alert Expires 31 Oct 2020 11:59 PM UTC

 

  • Incident: COVID-19 restrictions
  • Location(s): Goa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra states 
  • Time Frame: Indefinite
  • Impact: Business and transport disruptions, increased security; possible clashes

 

Summary
Authorities in the western Indian states of Goa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra are largely relaxing business, transport restrictions as of Oct. 2, per central government guidelines. However, strict curbs, such as a ban on nonessential activity, are in place in areas with reported coronavirus disease (COVID-19) clusters through Oct. 31.

Other nationwide measures continue. Prior permission for interstate and interdistrict travel is not required, though some regions mandate online registration and downloading of contact tracing mobile applications. Limited public buses and private transport are operational with social distancing measures outside containment zones with COVID-19 clusters. Officials are also permitting limited domestic and international flights and special intercity trains for stranded passengers. Travelers from other states or countries will typically undergo a 14-day quarantine at home or in a government facility, depending on medical screening and local rules; international arrivals with a negative COVID-19 test result, and short-term domestic visitors may be exempt from quarantine. People must wear facemasks in public and practice social distancing. Authorities may allow gatherings of up to 200 people and limited reopening of entertainment venues such as cinema halls from Oct. 15. Officials are also advising vulnerable groups who are younger than 10 years old or older than 65 years, pregnant women, and those with existing health conditions, to avoid nonessential outdoor activity. The ongoing closure of educational institutions and most sports facilities, as well as ban on large gatherings, continue while businesses are required to utilize telecommuting to the extent possible. Although urban centers such as Mumbai have reported no significant decrease in cases, the majority of activities are resuming. Current or planned measures include:

 

  • Goa: Most businesses are operational; bars and restaurants can reopen, albeit while enforcing social distancing measures. However, other indoor entertainment venues such as pubs and casinos must remain closed. Authorities are also allowing inter-state movement for people and vehicles; prior permission is no longer required, though proof of accommodation bookings may be necessary. Asymptomatic passengers arriving at Goa International Airport (GOI) no longer have to provide certificates verifying that they tested negative for COVID-19 upon arrival or undergo quarantine.
  • Gujarat: Authorities have allowed public parks to reopen and have relaxed several commercial restrictions. Shops and food takeaway services can operate without time constraints; however, hospitality facilities such as hotels and restaurants may stay open until 2300, except in western Ahmedabad, where businesses must close by 2200. Bus services serving Ahmedabad and Surat are operating 50-percent capacity outside containment zones; for other areas, buses may operate at 60-percent capacity. Autorickshaws, taxis, and private vehicles can carry two passengers. Local authorities may direct asymptomatic passengers to serve the mandatory 14-day quarantine at a government facility or at home. Asymptomatic entrants to the state are not required to quarantine.
  • Maharashtra: Authorities have extended restrictions through at least Oct. 31 in containment zones, but continue to ease several measures elsewhere. Hospitality and tourism establishments such as hotels and bars may operate at 50 percent capacity with social distancing measures. Nonessential shops can operate but are not allowed to accommodate more than five people at a time. Authorities are allowing private business offices to operate with a limited workforce; vigilance officers will monitor adherence to health protocols at workplaces. Private and minibus services are also permitted. Local and suburban trains are resuming services in a phased manner except in Mumbai, where Metro trains remain suspended, and local trains are only for essential workers with prior state permission. Travelers intending to exit Nagpur within three days, or the rest of the state within seven days are exempt from the mandatory 14-day home quarantine for asymptomatic entrants; all passengers to Shirdi will undergo institutional quarantine.


Emergency and utility services remain operational nationwide. While banks and businesses selling essential goods, such as fuel, food, and medicines, remain open in containment zones, officials will almost certainly regulate price, supply, and opening hours. Panic-buying and associated localized shortages of essential goods may occur in some areas. Sporadic clashes are possible if groups attempt to enforce business closures or defy official orders. Police may forcibly disperse unruly crowds. Violators may face legal action. Authorities could modify restrictions at short notice, mainly in major cities.

 

Background and Analysis
The measures adopted by the Indian government are similar to actions taken by other regional governments in recent days in response to the spread of COVID-19. COVID-19 is a viral respiratory disease caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus (previously known as 2019-nCoV). Symptoms occur 1-14 days following exposure (average of 3-7 days). These symptoms include fever, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, sometimes worsening to pneumonia and kidney failure - especially in those with underlying medical conditions. On March 11, the WHO declared the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.

 

Advice
Follow all official instructions; minimize outdoor activity to the extent possible. Abide by national health and safety measures. Reconfirm business appointments, deliveries, work, and travel arrangements. Do not check out of accommodation without confirming onward travel. Consider delaying traveling if experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19, as they may prompt increased scrutiny and delays. Liaise with trusted contacts for further updates and guidance. Maintain contact with your diplomatic representation. Ensure contingency plans account for further disruptive measures or extensions of current restrictions. Reconsider and reconfirm nonemergency health appointments. Ensure access to essential items, plan for queues, and delays at available shopping centers. Carry proper identification documents, heed all security advisories.

Emphasize basic health precautions, especially frequent handwashing with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are unavailable. Practice good coughing/sneezing etiquette (i.e., covering coughs and sneezes with a disposable tissue, maintaining distance from others, and washing hands). There is no evidence that the influenza vaccine, antibiotics, or antiviral medications will prevent this disease, highlighting the importance of diligent basic health precautions.

 

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