COVID-19 Updates – April 23, 2020

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The Central and State Governments are continuing to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic in India. They have passed several notifications, orders, and advisories to control the spread of coronavirus. One of the decisions taken by the Central Government was to extend the lockdown till May 3, 2020. You can read our detailed article on the revised guidelines here. Since the revised guidelines, the key developments as on April 23, 2020 till 9 pm (IST) have been set out below.

A.     Further orders by MHA:

After ordering the continuation of the nationwide lockdown and issuing consolidated guidelines in this regard, some of the important orders issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (“MHA”) are:

1.     First addendum to the consolidated guidelines whereby, certain additional activities in agriculture and horticulture, plantation, finance, and construction sectors in rural areas were permitted;

2.      The standard operating procedure required to be followed for movement of stranded labourers within the State/UT; and

3.     Allowed e-commerce activities to continue only for essential services.

B.     Clarifications for Industries:

The MHA has issued a letter, dated April 23, 2020, to the Chief Secretaries of all States, whereby it has clarified that:

1.     There is no basis for the apprehensions raised in the media and by some companies, that penal action would be taken against employers, including CEOs or that factories would be sealed or closed for non-compliance, in case workers test positive for COVID-19;

2.    Industries operating prior to April 15, 2020, which fall outside the containment zones are not required to obtain fresh permissions; and

3.     Permitted activities compliant with the SOPs are not required to obtain fresh license/statutory approval for resumption.

C.     Suspension of visas and grant of consular services:

In light of the nationwide lockdown, the Foreigners Division of the MHA (“Division”) has extended the suspension of all existing visas granted to foreigners till May 3, 2020, except those granted to diplomatic, official, UN/international organizations, employment and project categories. All travel restrictions as imposed by the office memorandum dated March 23, 2020 will also continue till May 3, 2020.

The Division has granted consular services to foreign nationals who are stranded in India due to COVID-19 and whose visas have expired or would be expiring during the period of the lockdown. Their regular visas, e-visas or stay stipulation would be extended till May 3, 2020 on gratis basis, after an online application by the foreigner. Exit to such nationals, if requested, would also be granted up to May 17, 2020 without levy of overstay penalty.

D.     State Updates:

1.     Guidelines and SOPs issued by States:

a.     The State Governments of Andhra Pradesh, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Maharashtra, and Uttar Pradesh are amongst the states which have issued guidelines which are in consonance with the revised consolidated guidelines issued by the MHA. However, vide order dated April 21, 2020, the Maharashtra guidelines were withdrawn for the metropolitan regions of Mumbai and Pune; and

b.     The State Governments of Andhra Pradesh and Kerala have issued separate SOPs for functioning of industries and the Gujarat Government has issued SOPs for IT and ITES.

2.      Restrictions on employers:

a.     The Government of Andhra Pradesh has on April 18, 2020 reiterated its order on payment of wages to employees and workers without any deductions. In addition to this, it also directed non-termination of casual and contract labour during the lockdown period.

b.     The Municipal Corporation of Bhavnagar has passed an order mandating payment of wages to workers without any deductions for the period their industries, business units, commercial offices, and shops are closed due to the lockdown. It has also ordered against termination of labourers.

3.     Working of IT and ITES:

a.     The Government of West Bengal has through an order dated April 17, 2020 allowed IT and ITES services to function from April 20, 2020 with maximum strength of 25% of their regular work force, provided they adhere to the social distancing and health hygiene norms.

b.     The Government of Karnataka, by an addendum dated April 22, 2020 has ordered IT and ITES services to function with essential minimum staff only. Rest of the staff has been directed to work from home.

4.      Status quo maintained:

a.    The Government of Telangana has on April 19, 2020 extended the lockdown in the state till May 7, 2020. It has implemented stringent measures and maintained the status quo in the State as was prior to the consolidated revised guidelines.

b.     The Government of Tamil Nadu has, on the recommendations of an Expert Committee, decided to continue the lockdown in the State till May 3, 2020 as per the conditions notified in the order dated March 25, 2020 and the addendums issued to it. In addition to this, the State has issued further orders on April 23, 2020 permitting certain activities to function.

5.     Gujarat:

The Government of Gujarat has vide an order dated April 17, 2020 allowed certain exemptions to factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948 from April 20, 2020 till July 19, 2020. The exemptions include-

a.     Adult workers will be allowed to work for up to 12 hours in a day and 72 hours in a week;

b.     An interval of rest of at least 30 minutes must be given after continuous work of 6 hours;

c.     Female workers will not be allowed/required to work between 7 pm to 6 am; and

d.     Wage for the increased working hours must be paid in proportion to the existing wages.

6.     Punjab:

The Government of Punjab has via an order April 20, 2020 extended the number of working hours in a factory to a maximum of 12 hours per day. It also directed that the maximum spread over in a day shall be 13 hours, subject to adherence to provisions on social distancing and sanitization. These provisions will remain in force for 3 months i.e. till July 19, 2020.

7.     Himachal Pradesh:

The Government of Himachal Pradesh has issued an order dated April 21, 2020 whereby, it is has allowed the following exemptions, from April 21, 2020 till July 20, 2020, to factories registered under the Factories Act, 1948-

a.     Adult workers will be allowed to work for up to 12 hours in a day and 72 hours in a week;

b.     An interval for rest of minimum 30 minutes must be given after continuous work of 6 hours; and

c.     Wages for the increased working hours must be paid in proportion to the existing fixed minimum wages.

8.     Maharashtra:

Government of Maharashtra has on April 20, 2020 extended the deadline for filing annual returns for the year 2019, under the Maharashtra Shops And Establishments (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 2017, from March 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.

Date:April 24, 2020