NEW DELHI: With the Centre's lockdown relaxations under 'Unlock 2' ending on July 31, the buzz is back on what is in the offing in the form of 'Unlock 3'. Reports that kept the media houses interested on Sunday claimed that the Union Home Ministry is in the process of preparing the requisite guidelines for further relaxations in the form of 'Unlock 3' from coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
While the most critical areas are likely to remain under restrictions, relaxation of restrictions are expected in the cinema industry from August. Gyms are also likely to be relaxed from the list of areas where the lockdown curbs will remain in place. Schools and Metro trains are the ones that are likely to remain closed beyond August in view of the rapid incidence of coronavirus cases across the country.
Many feel that this is going to be a strong possibility in view of the fact that the Centre has already re-opened the doors for retail, hospitality and travel industries to resume their businesses.
More than anyone, the cinema industry is pinning its hopes on a favourable decision from the Centre this time around in the form of fresh relaxations. Some reports suggest that the Multiplex Association of India (MAI) is foreseeing the prospect of cinema theatres and halls will be allowed to reopen as part of Unlock 3. Adding weight to its belief is the proposal forwarded earlier by the Information and Broadcasting Ministry to the Union Home Ministry to this effect.
As part of their own preparations, cinema halls and multiplexes across the country are making arrangements for paperless entry. Distance between seats, more intervals and frequent sanitisation of the premises are some of the measures they are assuring from their end to enable resumption of the show business.
Despite the optimism, there is still uncertainty amidst concerns over air-conditioned halls contributing to the spread of coronavirus. A single person infected with COVID-19 can pose a potential threat of infecting all the others inside the air-conditioned halls. To address this threat, the cinema theatre owners are ready to run their halls with only 50 percent seating capacity. Still, it falls short of the central government's informal suggestion to initially reopen with only 25 percent seating capacity while adhering to the physical distancing norms.
A CNN News18 report claims that officials in Ministry of information and broadcasting have confirmed proposing the reopening of cinema halls. "Yes, a proposal has been sent. The final decision will be taken by the MHA," an unnamed official was quoted as saying.
Besides cinema halls , the Home Ministry is also expected to pave the way for the reopening of gyms in the third phase of relaxations. But as in the case of some earlier easing of curbs, the Centre may opt to allow the states to formulate their own guidelines, depending on the COVID-19 situation locally.
All the cinema halls across the country remain closed since March 24, the day when the central government imposed nationwide lockdown to break the chain of coronavirus pandemic.
There has been no official word from any quarters in the Central government or the Union Home Ministry on whether gyms and cinema halls will be reopened as part of Unlock 3 and what will be the fate of the metros and schools beyond August.