The telephone keeps ringing for appointments at the Naturals Salon in Chennai's Alwarpet as the outlet reopened today after two months, a day after the Tamil Nadu government permitted salons and grooming parlours to resume services without air conditioning. The state government also announced resumption of public transport and more employees at the workplace as it extended the ongoing lockdown till June 30.
However, the guidelines for the services are yet to be issued.
Earlier in May, the state government had allowed salons in rural Tamil Nadu to reopen. The salons were asked to adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, with barbers being asked to wear masks and maintain hygiene at all times, besides frequent disinfection of the outlets.
The unisex salon in Chennai that NDTV visited today operates with only 50 per cent staff (8 workers) and without AC. Customers entering the salon must wear masks and use hand sanitiser. They also need to show the Aarogya Setu app to confirm that they come from a safe, non-containment area. Customers who don't have the app must give a written declaration that they are not coming from a containment zone.
The salon also provides customers with a disposable apron and a foot cover to wrap the footwear. If the bill for the services is under Rs 1,000, they need to pay Rs 150 for the apron and the foot cover.
Kamalesh, an IT entrepreneur, was among their first customers who came for haircut. Wearing a mask, he said, " Personal hygiene is important. I'm not scared as long as all guidelines are followed. I'm happy I get to be groomed after two months."
Balaji, another customer, said, "I am relieved. This hair cut is after three months. I started sweating a lot." His son Rohit added, "I had dandruff issue and was waiting (for my turn)."
Without business, the last two months were difficult, said Swadhi Rekha, the proprietor of the salon. She was able to pay her staff full salary only till March. For April, she could only pay a food allowance of Rs 5,000 each to her employees. "It was so difficult. We had to take a gold loan to manage the crisis," she said.
Jharana Raim, one of the employees who is from Nepal, said, "Thankfully, my employer took good care of me. I couldn't have returned home any way. I'm happy now. I'm not scared of COVID-19 as we follow all precautions."
Another worker, who is from Chennai, said, "It was quite difficult. I was able to survive as I got some home service during this time."