NEW DELHI, May 17 (Xinhua) -- The existing lockdown in India to contain the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended till May 31, said an official order issued by the Ministry of Home (Internal Security) Affairs on Sunday.

The fourth phase of the lockdown will commence from Monday.

Sunday was the last day of the third phase of the lockdown, which began on March 25 and was subsequently extended twice in the past two months.

Only essential transport services such as ambulances and special trains will be allowed in the fourth phase of the lockdown.

The official order stated that all domestic and international air travel of passengers, except for medical requirements, shall continue to be prohibited throughout the country till the end of May.

Inter-state movement of passenger vehicles and buses will be permitted with restrictions except in the Containment Zones, only with the mutual consent of the states.

Besides, Metro Rail services, all schools, colleges, educational institutions, hotels, restaurants and other hospitality services will remain closed. Restaurants will be permitted to operate kitchens for home delivery of food items.

Cinema halls, shopping malls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, theaters, bars, and auditoriums will also remain closed. Stadiums and sports complexes will be permitted to open but spectators will not be allowed, said the Home Ministry's order.

During the extended lockdown, movement of people will be strictly prohibited between 7:00 p.m. and 7:00 a.m. except for essential services. People aged above 65 years, pregnant women, children aged below 10 years shall stay at home except for essential and health purposes.