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    The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued new guidelines for opening up of more activities in areas outside the containment zones.

     As per the new guidelines, cinemas and multiplexes will be allowed to open with upto 50 per cent of their seating capacity from October 15, while the decision on reopening of schools has been left to the state governments.

    The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will issue a Standard Operating Procedure for the reopening of cinema halls, the MHA said in a statement.

    Business to Business (B2B) Exhibitions,  swimming pools being used for training of sportspersons and entertainment parks and similar places will also be permitted to open from October 15. Separate SOPs will be issued in this regard by the respective ministries.

    For re-opening of schools and coaching institutions, state/ UT governments have been given the flexibility to take a decision after October 15, in a graded manner.  The decision should be taken in consultation with the respective school/ institution management, based on their assessment of the situation.

    However, the reopening of schools will be subject to following conditions:

    Online/ distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and shall be encouraged.

    Where schools are conducting online classes, and some students prefer to attend online classes rather than physically attend school, they may be permitted to do so.

    Students may attend schools/ institutions only with the written consent of parents.

    Attendance must not be enforced, and must depend entirely on parental consent.

    States /UTs will prepare their own SOP regarding health and safety precautions for reopening of schools/ institutions based on the SOP to be issued by Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL), Ministry of Education, Government of India, keeping local requirements in view.

    Schools, which are allowed to open, will have to mandatorily follow the SOP to be issued by Education Departments of States/ UTs.

    According to the MHA statement, the Department of Higher Education (DHE) will take a decision on the timing of the opening of colleges and other higher education institutions in consultation with the MHA, based on the assessment of the situation.

    Online and distance learning shall continue to be the preferred mode of teaching and shall be encouraged, it said.

    However, higher education institutions only for research scholars (Ph.D) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory or experimental works will be permitted to open from October 15.

    For Centrally-funded higher education institutions, the head of Institution will satisfy herself/ himself that there is a genuine requirement of research scholars (Ph.D) and post-graduate students in science and technology stream for laboratory/experimental works.

    For all other higher education institutions (e.g. State Universities, Private Universities etc), they may open only for research scholars and postgraduate students in science and technology stream requiring laboratory/experimental works as per decision to be taken by the respective State/UT governments.

    According to the lastest guidelines, state and UT governments have been given the flexibility to permit more than 100 persons for social, academic, sports, entertainment, cultural, religious and political functions.

    The MHA said lockdown will continue to be implemented strictly in the Containment Zones till 31st October, 2020.

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