India allowed resumption of several activities, including manufacturing and infrastructure construction in rural areas, from Monday to provide relief for workers and poor people hit by the prolonged lockdown brought in to help stem the spread of the new coronavirus.
India last week extended its nationwide lockdown to May 3 but said the restrictions would be eased only in those rural areas where there were no coronavirus containment zones or hotspots. India has so far reported over 17,000 cases, including 543 deaths.
The latest measures also ease pressure on the farming sector, which employs more than half the country's workforce.
The government tweeted photos that showed that the harvest of winter crops had begun in several areas, allaying fears of food shortages. Domestic media reported that agricultural markets had opened in some rural areas.
Food processing plants were being allowed to operate and the construction of roads, buildings and industrial projects were being permitted in select areas.
Hundreds of thousands of workers in India have lost jobs and were struggling through the lockdown.
State governments were to decide where restrictions can be eased.
Authorities in the capital, New Delhi, and in key states like Punjab and Uttar Pradesh said the situation was ‘serious’ and that none of the restrictions wwould be lifted.
But the southern state of Kerala, acknowledged for its success in coronavirus testing, decided to reopen restaurants, bookshops and barbershops in some areas, prompting strong objections by the federal home ministry.
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