Malls petition Maharashtra government, say they should be allowed to reopen

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Published on Jul 21, 2020 12:52 AM IST
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ByAishwarya Iyer

Promising to keep numbers under control and enforce social distancing, mall owners have approached the Maharashtra government, asking that they be allowed to reopen their establishments. Malls, along with theatres, schools, event halls and other places of indoor public gathering, have been shut for going on four months, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Our industry has suffered estimated losses of over 100,000 crore so far, and it is time to reopen,” said Amitabh Taneja, chairperson of the Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI). “Earlier, these were hang-out and indulgence spots. Now it will be about making products available to people in real time. That’s it,” Taneja added.

The SCAI is petitioning for food courts — the biggest revenue earners for most malls — to be allowed to open to a capacity of up to 50%.

“There will be QR codes for every food outlet. People can scan the code, view menus and place orders online. And go to the counter only to pick up their order,” said Manoj Agarwal, CEO of Viviana Mall in Thane.

In its detailed report on the rest of the standard operating procedure (SOP) that malls would follow, the SCAI said only one person per 75 sq ft would be allowed in; all visitors would enter through sanitiser tunnels; floor markers would ensure distancing; only digital payments would be accepted; and foot traffic within would be rerouted so it was all unidirectional, to minimise the chances of accidental contact.

“Children under 10, people over 65 and pregnant women are requested to not visit until a vaccine is available,” said Mukesh Kumar, chairperson of the SCAI SOP Committee and CEO of Infiniti Malls.

The SCAI undertaking and appeal have been submitted to state tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray, son of chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, as well as to the state labour and industries departments.

“The state is yet to consider the demand,” said principal secretary Valsa Nair Singh.

Brihanmumbai municipal commissioner IS Chahal added: “We will allow reopening of malls and gyms only after the situation in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region improves and is similar to Mumbai’s situation today.”


The risk, in a mall or any such establishment, comes from the fact that large gatherings of people, coupled with enclosed spaces, air-conditioning and the resultant poor ventilation, have been shown to hasten the spread of the novel coronavirus. People contract it, and then also return to their neighbourhoods, where they may spread it.

“Controlling the quality of air in a closed space is very difficult. With several smooth surfaces around, one will be at constant risk of inviting the virus,” says Sandeep Patil, chief intensivist and physician at Fortis Hospital, Kalyan, a Covid testing centre.

The SCAI is arguing that given the risk to jobs and sustainability, opening up the malls within the restrictions of the SOPs would be justified, especially since markets and standalone shops across the state, including those selling non-essential items, have long since opened up.

Agarwal added that over 400 malls have reopened in other parts of the country and “there isn’t anything adverse happening as a result”.

“In case of any suspicion that a person at a mall is infected with Covid-19,” he said, “there will be two isolation spaces and a pandemic response team trained to act as per the government’s guidelines for suspected cases.”

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