India's Maharashtra restricts e-commerce to fight COVID-19

Despite the rise in COVID-19 cases, several people were seen queuing outside a railway station in Mumbai as they travel home to celebrate the harvest season. (INDRANIL MUKHERJEE / AFP)

Indian state of Maharashtra will impose stringent curbs on industry and e-commerce for 15 days to slow rising coronavirus infections, its chief minister said.

Maharashtra - home to India's financial capital Mumbai - has been the country's worst hit state due to the coronavirus, accounting for about a quarter of India's 13.5 million cases.

On Tuesday, state chief minister Uddhav Thackeray ordered most establishments and public places will be closed in the state except those which are deemed essential, including grocery shops, hospitals, banks and stock exchanges.

"All factories/industries" barring some export-oriented units and those making items needed for essential services "must stop their operations", a government notification said.

The curbs - which start Wednesday - could hit auto companies like Tata Motors Ltd, Bajaj Auto Ltd, and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd which operate factories in the state.

E-commerce deliveries will be allowed but only for essential products, the government said, a decision that will affect deliveries and online ordering on companies like Amazon.com Inc and Walmart's Flipkart.

"Livelihoods are important, but life is more important. We need to increase existing restrictions," Thackeray said.

The restrictions will jolt businesses in Maharashtra but also risk having a broader impact on the Indian economy. The state accounts for nearly 15 per cent of India's gross domestic product, making it crucial for the country's economic recovery after months of slowdown.

Maharashtra had already shut down restaurants, bars, gyms, theatres and non-essential stores last week, a move some industry groups had warned will cause economic losses of billions of dollars.

The more stringent restrictions announced on Tuesday said no one should "move in public places without valid reasons" and all public places and non-essential services will remain closed.

Shooting of films and advertisements will also be closed in the state which is home to India's Bollywood film industry.

 

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