In what comes as a major relief for the retail sector, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has said that hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and other hospitality services will be allowed to open starting June 8 in non-containment zones.
Shopping malls, which have been shut for over two months even before the nationwide lockdown was announced, lost over Rs 90,000 crore in the last two months, in the absence of relief from the government. According to the Retail Association of India (RAI), malls provide livelihood to over 1.2 crore people, directly and indirectly.
However, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres and bars will be opened yet. The MHA has said that the re-starting of these activities will be decided based on the assessment of the situation in phase 3.
In containment zones, however, only essential activities will be allowed and there will be strict perimeter control to ensure there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services.
The opening of restaurants and malls comes as a major relief for the retail industry, which has been grappling with near zero revenues and a complete halt in business.
The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) has been saying that the restaurant industry, which employs over 7 lakh people, is in a very precarious situation due to the lockdown. Earlier this month, it said that nearly 20 lakh people directly employed in the sector risk losing jobs.
With the MHA now allowing them to reopen, Anurag Katriar, President of NRAI has welcomed the move, saying that this is vital to kickstart the economy. â€śHowever, we need to wait for clear guidelines for operations from states with respect to safety and hygiene. Also, since restrictions on timings remain, we need to discuss with landlords and stakeholders on fresh terms of commercials taking this into account, but otherwise, this is a very welcome move,â€ť he added.
With respect to malls as well, retailers across the country have been urging the government to allow malls to function. RAI said in a note earlier this month that malls have the infrastructure, the space, and the staff to implement the requisite health and safety measures mandated by the government, in line with WHO guidelines and international best practices.
Welcoming the move, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO of RAI said that they have been advocating that malls are the place to open and that the industry appreciates the government for taking cognisance. â€śThere now has to be several standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place. All members of the RAI and malls are fully prepared to ensure safety of customers, along with ensuring opening of stores to help move the economy forward. We have given SOPs from our side and have been working with the government, and believe it sees our suggestions of SOPs as sufficient,â€ť he added.
The MHA, in its directives, has said that shops should ensure physical distancing among customers and will not allow more than 5 persons at one time.
Further, staggering of work/business hours will be followed in shops and markets. Provision for thermal scanning, hand wash and sanitizer will be made at all entry and exit points and common areas.
The MHA, on Saturday, issued an order to extend the lockdown in containment zones up to June 30, and to re-open prohibited activities in a phased manner in areas outside containment zones.