India said on Friday it would extend its nationwide coronavirus lockdown for another two weeks after May 4, but would allow “considerable relaxations” in lower-risk districts marked as green and orange zones.


In its new order for allowing economic activities and rules for workplaces,MHA has made it mandatory for employers to send employees symptomatic to the Covid-19 to a medical facility and ensuring that workers download the official contract tracing mobile application-Aarogya Setu.

Some activities will remain prohibited throughout the country, regardless of the zone, the ministry of home affairs(MHA) said in a statement.


Those include travel by air, rail and metro and inter-state movement of people by road; and schools and colleges, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, cinema halls and places of worship will remain closed.


There will be no restriction on movement of goods between states and on the manufacturing and distribution of essential items, the ministry said.


In its latest order, the government has allowed industries to operate in special economic zones, export zones, industrial estates and industrial townships in the urban areas. Further, information technology firms and the jute industry “with staggered shifts and social distancing” have been permitted in urban areas, along with manufacturing of packaging materials.

The MHA now has removed a clause wherein medical insurance for all workers was made mandatory. The previous MHA order, which had permitted economic activities from April 20, had a provision mandating employers to give medical insurance to its workforce.  


The employers will have to “earmark” quarantine areas “for isolating employees showing symptoms till they are safely moved” to a nearby medical facility. It will become the responsibility of companies to send their workers, showing any symptom for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), to a medical facility “immediately”.

The government has removed a cap on the number of employees who can attend a meeting at the workplace (which was 10 in the previous order) and the need to maintain a gap of six-feet while sitting on job sites has also been done away with. “Large physical meetings are to be avoided,” the new guidelines said.


The requirement to maintain one hour gap between shifts on the job have also been removed with the government mentioning that there should be “adequate gaps between shifts.Arrangement for transport facilities shall be ensured with social distancing, wherever personal or public transport is not feasible,according to the new guidelines.


It will be the responsibility of the heads of companies and organizations “to ensure 100% coverage of this app among the employees,” the ministry said.


Officials at India’s technology ministry and a lawyer who framed the privacy policy for Aarogya Setu told Reuters the app needs to be on at least 200 million phones for it to be effective in the country of 1.3 billion people.


The app has been downloaded around 50 million times on Android phones, which dominate India’s smartphone user base of 500 million, according to Google Play Store data.


The app’s compulsory use is raising concerns among privacy advocates, who say it is unclear how the data will be used and who stress that India lacks privacy laws to govern the app.


“Such a move should be backed by a dedicated law which provides strong data protection cover and is under the oversight of an independent body,” said Udbhav Tiwari, Public Policy Advisor for internet company Mozilla.


New Delhi has said the app will not infringe on privacy as all data is collected anonymously.


Authorities are trying to chart a path out of the world’s biggest lockdown, which they credit with preventing an exponential surge in infections and which Prime Minister Narendra Modi imposed on March 25.


Authorities have mapped the country into red, orange and green zones, depending on the severity of the outbreak. Health Secretary Preeti Sudan detailed the plan in a letter to regional officials..


The biggest and most economically-important cities, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Ahmedabad, would all be classed as red zones, infection hotspots, and kept under strict lockdown.


To qualify as a green zone, eligible for quicker lifting of restrictions, an area would have had to report no new infections for three weeks. The classifications would be “dynamic” and updated at least weekly as conditions change, Sudan wrote.


India has reported more than 35,000 cases and 1,147 confirmed deaths from the virus. The true extent of infection may be higher in a country where millions of people do not have access to sufficient healthcare.


Globally, 3,309,002 people have been infected by coronavirus so far, and the total number of deaths from the disease stands at 234,142. Nations hit with most coronavirus cases at present are the US (1,095,304 ) Spain (239,639), Italy (205,463), UK (171,253), France (167,178) and Germany (163,009).


The shutdown has pummelled India’s economy, depriving millions of day labourers of income and stranding rural migrants in cities where they can no longer afford rent or food.


The government issued an order on Friday to provide special trains for stranded migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists and students to return home.