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E-commerce firms allowed to operate from April 20


A day after extending the lockdown till May 3 to contain the spread of Covid-19, the central government has come up with a list of economic activities that will be permitted from April 20.

According to the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs, e-commerce firms would now be able to deliver non-essential items as well from April 20. This means that the online businesses which were on halt for almost one month are likely to be back on track.

The latest guidelines also state that all goods traffic will be allowed to ply across the country, except the demarcated containment zones – hotspots or red zones – where the spread of the infection is high. 

This includes operations of railways for transportation of goods and parcels, operations at airports, land ports for cargo movement, and movement of trucks and commercial vehicles for pick-up and delivery of goods. 

The vehicles used for e-commerce operators will also be allowed to ply with necessary permissions. 

Besides, all the kirana stores and shops selling food and groceries, hygiene items, fruits and vegetables, dairy and milk booths, poultry, and animal feed and fodder are also allowed to operate without any restriction on their timings of opening and closing by ensuring strict social distancing measures.

Although the e-commerce sector believes that all operations, including for non-essential items, will be allowed now and they would be able to fulfil the customers orders, supply chain and logistics issues are likely to remain. 

According to some media reports, most online delivery companies have been raising the issue of lack of manpower during the lockdown period. The delivery executives who have returned to their hometown are either not ready to get back given their fear of the virus or not able to as there is no transport available. 

Also, strict action against some last mile delivery personnel and shutting down of warehouses during the initial days of lockdown added to their worries. The companies are now looking to get more clarity from the government

E-commerce firms, including Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal, have welcomed the move and all set to go ahead in the line with the guidelines and also in collaboration with all state governments & local authorities.

During the first phase of the lockdown, most e-commerce platforms such as Flipkart, Amazon and Paytm Mall had joined hands with the government authorities and their delivery partners to ensure doorstep delivery of essential items.

Meanwhile, the revised guidelines have also permitted the manufacturing of IT hardware, essential goods including drugs and pharmaceuticals and functioning of food processing industries. 

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