The government on Wednesday announced that it will allow e-commerce services as a part of its relaxation guidelines amid the ongoing countrywide lockdown put in place due to the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The relaxation to the e-commerce companies will come into force on April 20. It comes as a huge relief for e-commerce companies like Amazon, Flipkart, and Snapdeal and also for their customers who are unable to purchase items as the shops are shut due to lockdown orders.
The latest guidelines were issued by Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) after Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Tuesday that the initial lockdown of three weeks is being extended until May 3. In his speech, the prime minister had said that some concessions will be given in areas where the spread of COVID-19 has been under control.
The government, in a statement on Wednesday, said, “Digital economy is critical to the services sector and is important for national growth. Accordingly, e-commerce operations, operations of IT and IT enabled services, data and call centres for Government activities, and online teaching and distance learning are all permitted activities now.”
As a part of the guidelines, the Home Ministry has allowed the plying of vehicles involved in the e-commerce operations.
“Vehicles used by e-commerce operators will be allowed to ply with necessary permissions,” the new guidelines read. The relaxations will not apply in areas which have been declared coronavirus containment hotspots.
The MHA guidelines further said, “All facilities in the supply chains of essential goods, whether involved in manufacturing, wholesale or retail of such goods through local stores, large brick and mortar stores or e-commerce companies should be allowed to operate.”
Even during the initial lockdown, e-commerce companies had been allowed to operate but for supplying only essential items. There were reports of challenges, faced by workers involved in the delivery of e-commerce goods, like harassment by police and difficulty in procuring passes for their logistics. Apart from these issues, it will be important for companies like Amazon, Flipkart and delivery service providers like eKart, Delhivery, etc. to ensure the safety of delivery executives and the customers by maintaining strict hygiene standards and social distancing.
Additionally, through the guidelines, the government has also allowed the IT companies to function with 50 percent staff from April 20.