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Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Mumbai: BMC’s move not to lift lockdown curbs upsets hospitality and retail industry

Level 2 of unlock requires positivity rate to be below 5 per cent and oxygen bed occupancy to be between 25 per cent and 40 per cent.

Written by Sanjana Bhalerao | Mumbai |
June 13, 2021 1:04:26 am
As per the current restrictions, industry associations and shopkeepers said that not all establishments can continue to run their businesses.

The BMC’S decision against further relaxation in lockdown restrictions for two more weeks – though Mumbai’s positivity rate and oxygen bed occupancy has declined with the city moving to Level 2 category of unlockdown – has upset the hospitality and retail industry.

Level 2 of unlock requires positivity rate to be below 5 per cent and oxygen bed occupancy to be between 25 per cent and 40 per cent. The city’s positivity rate is 4.4 per cent and oxygen bed occupancy 27.12%, according to the state government data, released on Friday.

As per the current restrictions, industry associations and shopkeepers said that not all establishments can continue to run their businesses. There are around 90,000 eateries, restaurants, cafes and bars in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region. However, only 20 per cent, mostly breakfast eateries, have reopened on June 7.

“Given the government guidelines, many hotels and restaurants had started preparations to reopen once the city entered Level 2. It is unfair that despite Mumbai fulfilling Level 2 criteria, we are expected to continue with Level 3 restrictions,” said Pradeep Shetty, senior vice-president of Hotel and Restaurant Association, Western India (HRAWI). “Even during the first wave, the number of cases in the city was never only 100 to 200 a day. With such criterion, restaurants will never open for business. Of the total association members, only 20 per cent have reopened this week. Even for them, it is not viable to only operate till 4 pm,” he added.

The city is following curbs under Level 3 of unlocking, which is imposed when the positivity rate is between 5 per cent and 10 per cent and oxygen bed occupancy more than 40 per cent. Under Level 3 restrictions, shops selling non-essential items and restaurants are allowed to remain open till 4 pm on weekdays and have to remain closed on weekends.

“The government has turned down our request for discounting fees due to lockdown or paying the excise license fee in instalments although the high court has given interim relief of 50 per cent payment. We are expected to pay excise and other license fees for the entire year when the government itself is not allowing us to open for business,” said Sherry Bhatia, president of HRAWI.

Under Level 2 of unlockdown, shops and establishments can operate as per regular timings, malls and cinema halls can operate at 50 per cent capacity and restaurants can allow patrons to dine throughout their business hours.

A circular issued by BMC Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal had stated that considering the geographical challenges, population and rain forecast for the city, Level 3 of curbs will continue.

“We appreciate that the Mumbai civic body has been cautious looking at the size of the population as well as the weather forecast. However, Mumbai also has the highest taxes, overheads, rents and salary. Looking at all this, Mumbai should have been given relaxation in unlocking as per guidelines. Why the city’s traders, restaurants, mall and theatre operators have to suffer?” asked Viren Shah, president of Federation of Retail Traders Welfare Association (FRTWA).

The FRTWA has urged BMC to allow shops to operate on Saturdays.

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