Odishatv Bureau

Hyderabad: The Telangana government on Tuesday decided to extend the lockdown till May 29, saying it can't take the risk by lifting it at a time when the state has made considerable progress in controlling the spread of Covid-19. Thus, Telangana became the first state in the country to extend the lockdown beyond May 17 announced by the Centre last week.

Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao made the announcement at a news conference on Tuesday night after the state cabinet meeting.

The lockdown in the state was to end on May 7 but the cabinet decided to extend it by another 22 days. The state government also decided not to give any relaxations in Hyderabad and five other red zone districts.

The Chief Minister said while the guidelines issued by the Centre allowing economic activity in orange and green zones will be followed, no activity will be allowed in Hyderabad and other red zone districts except the construction activity.

"Only cement, steel, hardware and electrical shops will be allowed to open in red zone districts," he said.

KCR, as Rao is popularly known, announced that while all shops can open in Mandal headquarters and villages, only 50 per cent shops will be allowed to open in municipal towns in green and orange districts. The shops can remain open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The Chief Minister made it clear that night curfew will continue across the state without any relaxation. KCR said he would review the situation on May 15 and decide whether to give relaxations in red zones or not.

The Chief Minister said the state on Tuesday reported 11 new Covid-19 cases, taking the tally to 1,096. He said 43 people were discharged on Tuesday. With this, the number of active cases stands at 439.

Telangana government also decided to re-open all liquor shops except those in containment zones with 16 per cent hike in liquor prices from Wednesday.

The decision was taken by the state cabinet at its meeting chaired by Chief Minister K. Chandrashekhar Rao. He told reporters after the meeting that liquor shops would open in all areas, including Hyderabad and other red zone districts. However, liquor outlets in containment zones will remain closed.

"The state has 2,200 odd liquor shops. Except for 15 shops in containment zones, all will be re-opened," he said.

KCR, as Rao is popularly known, made it clear that the liquor outlets and consumers would have to ensure social distancing. "Any shop flouting these rules will be immediately shut down," he said.

The Chief Minister said that his government would not tolerate the chaotic situation witnessed in Delhi, Bengaluru and other cities. The shops can remain open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and sell liquor only to those wearing masks.

KCR said the government had to take a decision to re-open liquor shops as all four states which share borders with Telangana have re-opened them. "If we don't open shops here, it will lead to smuggling from neighbouring states," he said.

Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Chhattisgarh all have re-opened liquor shops.

Meanwhile, the Centre has announced to facilitate their return on compelling grounds in a phased manner from May 7 on payment basis.

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs made the announcement, informing that the travel would be arranged by aircraft and naval ships and a standard operating procedure (SOP) has been prepared in this regard.

Indian Embassies and High Commissions are preparing a list of distressed Indian citizens and the facility would be made available on payment basis, a statement issued by the Home Ministry said.

According to the statement, “Non-scheduled commercial flights would be arranged for air travel and the travel would begin in a phased manner from May 7.”

“Medical screening of the passengers would be done before they board the flight and only the asymptomatic passengers would be allowed to travel,” it said.

During the journey, all these passengers would have to follow the protocols, such as the health guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and the Civil Aviation Ministry.