The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) published an advisory titled ‘Recommendations Unlock 3.0’ in July, 2020 suggesting areas that need immediate attention for relaxations to revive soon.
The federation mentioned a series of safety measures the sectors should follow if availing the relaxations. In the very first segment, the advisory mentioned the Ministry of Home Affairs’ (MHA) guidelines for Unlock 2.0 that was applicable for the month of July. Certain activities like schools, colleges, cinema halls and theatres, gym, international flights, metro rails and social or political congregations were restricted for the period.
FICCI has urged for relaxation since August in some of these sectors. The advisory states, “The purpose of this document is to provide recommendations to unlock activities that are currently prohibited under the MHA Unlock 2.0 order.” The sector-wise guidelines include six major areas of relaxations. These are domestic and foreign aviation, tourism and hospitality, metro rails, sports and school. The last set of sectors includes cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places.
Sector specific suggestions for aviation
The recommendations stated, “Indian and foreign carriers can be allowed to operate between two countries. India should allow foreigners to travel to India on a reciprocal basis.” But the travellers have to maintain few safety protocols like having a Covid negative certificate issued by his/her original country. The airports must provide support and resources to set up a ‘Safe Corridor’ and have to build infrastructural support like setting up sample collection centres. For foreigners coming to India having a Covid negative certificate, their business visa, medical visa (for non-Covid ailments), tourist visa and student visa can be revived.
Sector specific suggestions for tourism
The industry body stated more clear-cut dates should be announced by the states to open tourism, monuments, tourist attractions, hotels, restaurants and bars. The World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) recently voiced for relaxation in the sector and defined the maximum tourist capacity. The Indian tourism and hospitality industry was already struggling since the pandemic hit. According to a report by KMPG, the sector is fearing a job loss of around 38 million people which is 70% of its total workforce. India’s apex tourism federation, Federation of Associations in Indian Tourism and Hospitality (FAITH) has informed that the Indian tourism industry is at risk of around `10 lakh crore. To revive the sector, FICCI has requested to open state borders for tourists making the use of masks and social distancing mandatory. They should be permitted for travel even without Covid tests as it is an expensive and inconvenient requirement. The state governments are now working on specific tourism related regulations and policies after the recommendation arrived.
The advisory mentioned, “The states/UTs should have a targeted marketing campaign to communicate the safety measures taken by the government at various tourist attractions and the private stakeholders to ensure the safety of the tourists when travelling to the destination.” This is expected to educate tourists and build their confidence. For wedding or other events at banquets, FICCI recommended, “Permission should be granted for hosting all kinds of banquets and conferences in the hotel. However, a ceiling of 50% of venue capacity maintaining social distancing norms should be permitted.” Also, all restaurants and eateries in the hotel can be allowed to serve at 50% seating capacity. The advisory added, “It is suggested that the service of liquors may be permitted.”
Relaxations for metro rails
Apart from stations at containment zones, metro rail services may be opened. With contactless ticketing as far as possible and mandatory thermal screening at entry points, the metro services can start with less than 50% capacity now. The advisory added, “Norms for switching between air conditioning and fresh air ventilation on underground stations is to be put in place and adhered to strictly.”
Relaxations for sports and schools
FICCI recommended clear guidelines for organising sports, camps and staging competitions or events. Based on the risk involved, the sports should be classified into different categories like ‘No Risk’, ‘Low Risk’, ‘Mid-High’. Strict adherence to the Standard Operation Procedures (SOPs) and the sanitisation norms must be followed and players and staff will have to go through regular Covid tests. FICCI said relaxations in sports activities will further enable citizens across the country to purchase sports products.
One of the major perspectives of the Unlock 3.0 recommendation is that, depending on the local situation of Covid cases, FICCI said the government may decide to open educational institutions and schools. The advisory stated, “Till the schools are closed, it is recommended that a proper digital teaching framework may be put in place so that the learning is not impacted.”
Relaxations for entertainment sector
Film shooting is currently permitted in the country, but cinema halls are still not permitted to operate. But FICCI has given an uncommon statement by suggesting opening up of cultural centres like cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars, auditoriums and assembly halls.
Yoga and gymnasium activities have been allowed since August 5. The Secretary of Information and Broadcast Ministry has also recently written a letter to the central Home Ministry to consider reopening cinema halls.
Professor Tanmoyee Banerjee, Professor, Department of Economics, Jadavpur University, told BE, “These service sectors are the worst hit. However, to become operational, the hospitality and the entertainment sectors require gaining the trust of consumers by adhering to different safety and protection measures. Unless and until the trust of the consumers are rebuilt, smooth business-operations cannot be undertaken in this situation of great trepidation.”
In the present situation, it is hard to decide whether to continue with the ‘lockdown’ or to proceed for ‘unlocking’ when India is standing at one of the highest positions of the coronavirus outbreak globally. The per day positive case registrations are also increasing. But when the manufacturing segment and major service sectors are getting hit, the country needs to support its livelihood generating options with a firm eye on securing lives as well.