New Delhi: The Union Home Ministry on Tuesday, April 21 allowed the opening of shops selling educational books and electric fans, services of bedside attendants of senior citizens and public utilities, including recharge facilities for prepaid mobile phones during the ongoing lockdown. The home ministry also said that the bread factories and flour mills located in urban areas can restart operations during the ongoing lockdown to combat the novel coronavirus outbreak. In separate orders, the home ministry said that the decision has been taken after receiving some queries with regard to exemptions of specific services and activities allowed through the guidelines issued so far. Shops of educational books for students, shops of electric fans will be allowed to open during the lockdown, which is scheduled to end on May 3. Bedside attendants and caregivers of senior citizens residing in their homes and public utilities, including recharge facilities for prepaid mobile connection will be allowed to offer services, the ministry said in its order. Food processing units such as bread factories, milk processing plants, flour mills, dal mills, etc., located in urban areas will be allowed to function during the lockdown. Facilities for export or import such as pack houses, inspection and treatment facilities for seeds and horticulture produce, research establishments dealing with the agriculture and horticulture activities have been exempted from the purview of the lockdown. Inter and intra-state movement of planting materials and honey bee colonies, honey, and other beehive products will also be allowed to function, the order said. Forest offices, forestry plantations, and related activities, including silviculture operations, are allowed during the lockdown. However, the ministry made it clear that social distancing for offices, workshops, factories, and establishments must be ensured. The home ministry also allowed sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers at Indian ports and their movement for the aforesaid purpose as per a standard operating protocol (SOP). It said that the change of crew of a ship (seafarers) is an important measure for the operation of merchant ships. The SOP has been formulated to streamline the sign-on and sign-off of Indian seafarers at Indian ports for merchant shipping vessels, the ministry added. For sign-on, the ship-owner or recruitment and placement service (RPS) agency will identify the Indian seafarers for joining a vessel. The seafarers will intimate their travel and contact history for the last 28 days to the ship-owner or RPS agency by email, as per procedure laid down by Director General of Shipping (DGS). The seafarer would be examined by a DGS-approved medical examiner, as per the guidelines prescribed for this purpose. At the same time, the seafarer shall also be screened, and his travel and contact history examined for the last 28 days; seafarers found to be asymptomatic for COVID-19 and otherwise suitable may be processed for sign-on. The local authority in the area where the seafarer resides will be intimated about his clearance for sign-on and for issues of a transit pass from the place of residence to the place of embarkation on the shipping vessel. The transit pass for such movement by road, for the seafarer and one driver, may be issued by the government of the State or Union Territory where the seafarer resides. For sign-off, the master of a vessel, coming from any foreign port, or a coastal vessel from any Indian port, while arriving at its port of call in India, shall ascertain the state of health of each person on board the vessel and submit a Maritime Declaration of Health to the health authorities of the port and to the port authorities. In addition, the information required by the local health authorities of the port, like temperature chart, individual health declaration, etc. shall also be provided by the master as per the directives of the health authorities of the port. Port health authorities shall grant pratique to the vessel prior to berthing as per necessary health protocols. The Indian seafarer arriving on the vessel would undergo the COVID-19 test for confirmation that he or she is negative for the infection. After disembarking and till the time the seafarer reaches the testing facility within the port premises, it will be ensured by the ship-owner that all safety precautions as per standard health protocol are observed. Till the time test reports of the seafarer are received, they shall be kept in the quarantine facility by the port or the state health authorities. If the seafarer is tested as positive for COVID-19, he or she will be dealt with as per the procedures laid down by theHealth Ministry. For the seafarer tested negative and signed off, the local authority in the area where the seafarer disembarks will be intimated about his or her clearance for sign-off, and for the issue of a transit pass from the place of disembarkation to the place of his or her residence. The social distancing and other hygiene norms, as per standard health protocol, would be followed by the vehicle transporting the seafarer to his destination. The lockdown was first announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 24 in a bid to combat the coronavirus pandemic. It was later extended till May 3.
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