Chennai, July 30: The Tamil Nadu government on Thursday announced the extension of coronavirus-induced lockdown in the state till August 31, but with more relaxations, including scaling up the workforce in private establishments and allowing dine-in services in hotels and restaurants.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami reasoned that 'significant' number of coronavirus cases had prompted the continuation of curbs and called for public cooperation towards strict adherence to social distancing, wearing of masks and hand hygiene to contain the spread.
The decision came after Palaniswami held discussions with District Collectors on Wednesday and the government-appointed medical expert panel on Thursday where he took stock of the situation in the state.
As of Thursday, Tamil Nadu has 2.34 lakh Covid-19 cases, including 3,741 deaths.
Extending the total shutdown imposed across the state on Sundays from July to August, Palaniswami said intense curbs will be in place on August 2,9,16,23, and 30 as well.
The Independence Day celebrations on August 15 will be held across the state as per Central government guidelines on precautions like social distancing and use of masks, he said in a statement.
The existing ban on religious congregations, operation of public transport including Metro rail, shopping malls, theatres and bars, and all kinds of political and sporting activities, inter-state public and private transport will continue, he added.
The e-pass system for inter-district and inter-state travel will continue, he said.
Schools and educational institutions will remain closed but they can continue with and promote online learning, the chief minister added.
Ban on international aviation, but for services allowed by the MHA, will also continue.
Hotels and resorts will remain closed but those accommodating medical personnel, police, and government officials, besides facilities used as quarantine centers will function, he said.
Popular tourist destinations Udhagamandalam and Kodaikanal will remain out of bounds for travelers.
Among the relaxations, the government allowed increasing the size of the workforce from the existing 50 percent to 75 percent in private establishments and export firms in non-containment zones covered under the Greater Chennai Police limits.
Tea stalls, hotels, and restaurants can provide dine-in services but can accommodate only 50 percent of the capacity.
Earlier, they were allowed to provide only takeaway services.
Dine-in services will be available from 6 AM-7 PM while takeaway can be served till 9 pm, he added.
On the religious front, temples with an annual income of less than Rs 10,000, small mosques, dargahs, and churches will be open for public with the permission of District Collectors, Palaniswami said.
Big places of worship and those in Corporation limits, will remain closed.
Shops selling groceries and vegetables can remain open from 6 am to 7 pm, with the government allowing an additional hour of business in the evening. All other shops can run from 10 am to 7 pm, he said.
E-commerce vendors can now supply both essential as well as non-essential goods.
The government asked companies to promote work from home culture.
The relaxations would not apply in containment zones.
Palaniswami said further relaxations could be given to the curbs depending upon the virus's spread situation.