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NEW DELHI: Metro rail services, suspended for over five months now due to Covid-19, may resume from September 1, with the home ministry contemplating excluding these from the list of prohibited activities under Unlock 4. However, schools and colleges are likely to remain shut in view of fears that these may end up as potential clusters for Covid-19 transmission, according to government sources.
Bars too may be allowed to sell liquor over the counter for take-away, though there are still reservations against allowing public consumption of liquor. National Guidelines on Covid-19 Management, last updated by the home ministry on July 29, prohibit public consumption of liquor and tobacco products.
Sources said while there are no immediate plans to reopen schools and colleges, deliberations are underway on whether professional courses at higher educational institutions like IITs and IIMs can be resumed. “No decision has been taken on this as yet,” said an officer.
Cinema halls and multiplexes may also have to wait for longer as there is a general assessment that film-makers or cinema hall owners may not find it commercially viable to operate following strict social distancing.
The resumption of Metro services in Delhi had been sought by the Arvind Kejriwal government prior to the release of Unlock 3 guidelines, citing the improved Covid-19 situation in the city. However, even though both DMRC and CISF, which handles security at metro stations, were told by the home ministry at the beginning of this month to be prepared for restart of Metro, no decision in this regard was announced.

A senior CISF functionary said its precautionary drill for safe re-opening of Metro services is in place and only a direction from the home ministry is needed to operationalise the same. The announcement would spell relief for both the commuters as well as DMRC that has been suffering huge losses due to protracted Metro shutdown. In all likelihood, Metro services will be resumed in phased manner and require strict adherence to social distancing norms both in the coaches as well as at the stations.
An interesting thing to look for in Unlock 4 guidelines is whether the home ministry allows public gatherings, particularly for political purposes, in view of Election Commission’s broad guidelines for Bihar polls and other impending bye-elections, okaying holding of campaign rallies and public meetings, subject to extant MHA guidelines and adherence to social distancing norms.
The elections in Bihar may be announced sometime next month and with the political climate warming up, parties and candidates would be keen to kick off their campaign by holding public rallies and meetings as soon as possible.

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