Agri, tea plantations, truck repair shops on highways exempted

NEW DELHI: Eleven days into the Covid-19 lockdown, the Centre has issued four circulars, exempting agriculture, tea plantations, truck spare parts and repair shops on highways, indicating that it is willing to ease restrictions as the situation improves.

Besides supply and manufacturing of essential goods and services, the Union home secretary has clarified, through multiple letters to states and Union Territories (UTs), what other categories are exempted, with the latest being allowing interstate movement of workers at pharmaceutical units in Himachal Pradesh and functioning of private laboratories, along with their collection centres and staff in other parts of the country.

While a final decision on lifting the lockdown will be taken during the second week of April, the Centre has maintained a flexible approach to giving exemptions as and when required, said officials. “The lockdown measures across states and UT have been satisfactory so far,” a senior official told ET.

However, in a few cases, some states have interpreted the Centre’s communication on exempted items differently, hindering the supply chain of these essential items, said officials. For instance, the Centre specified that pharma units and laboratories were exempted from restrictions. “This includes pharmaceuticals units and testing laboratories in the private sector for Covid-19 samples. These samples are collected through various collection centres, and thereafter transported to the aforesaid laboratories,” said a government communication. “It is reiterated that the opening up of temporary collection centres, movement of lab technicians and transportation of samples from the collection centres to the laboratories are to be allowed and exempted from any lockdown restrictions on movement.”

Punya Salila Srivastava, joint secretary, MHA, said that 27,661 relief and shelters camps have been set up across the country – 23,924 opened by the Centre and state governments and 3,737 by NGOs.

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