Spelling cheers, the Maharashtra government on Wednesday permitted malls, restaurants, bars, hotels, gymnasiums, saloons, beauty parlours and all shops in the state to remain open till 10 p.m.
The significant decision came after a meeting, presided over by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, accepted the recommendations of the Maharashtra Covid-19 Task Force to further boost the economy reeling under the series of pandemic lockdowns.
Panel chef Dr Sanjay Oak had said that they had no objections to extend the timings for hotels and restaurants - even as the state is showing signs of improvement in the second wave.
Hotel & Restaurant Association of Western India President Sherry Bhatia has wholeheartedly welcomed the move to ease curbs on their businesses - until now permitted to operate till 4 p.m. with 50 per cent seating, though food parcel deliveries were permitted till 11 p.m.
Under the revised rules, though the 50 per cent condition is retained, parcel delivery is allowed for 24 hours.
All shops and malls shall remain open till 10 p.m., though cinemas and multiplexes as well as places of worship will remain closed till further orders.
After nearly 17 months, for weddings and such social events, a maximum of 200 guests shall be permitted at outdoor and indoor locations, subject to other conditions.
The government has also given further relaxations to government and private offices to function with additional capacity depending on the Covid-19 vaccination of their employees and other protocols.
The easing measures come barely four days before the Indian Railways plans to throw open the Mumbai suburban trains from August 15, for all fully-vaccinated commuters, following a request by the state government.
The Central Railway and Western Railway officials indicate that the move is likely to benefit around 70 per cent of the total commuting public spread across Mumbai, Thane, Palghar, and Raigad.
This is the first time that the ordinary people will be able to travel in local trains after nearly 17 months since the pandemic lockdown was declared in March 2020 and the CR and WR are making all-out preparations for this.