As Maharashtra takes measured steps to unlock amid fears over Delta variant, malls across the state will close again over challenges in meeting the requirement of fully vaccinated staff. The Shopping Centres Association of India, however, has urged the Uddhav Thackeray government to consider opening the malls if the staff has "received one dose".
"In light of the modified guidelines issued by the government of Maharashtra on 16 August 2021, restraining mall staff from returning to workplace unless they are vaccinated with two doses with a gap 14 days after the second dose, it is unfortunate that malls across the state have decided to close down," read the official statement by the top industry body Shopping Centres Association of India.
The malls in the state have been shut for over 300 days since the start of the pandemic, "resulting in huge, irrecoverable losses", the industry body said, adding, "We fear the trend will continue if urgent steps are not taken to ease restrictions that are 'specifically made applicable for malls'. On the other hand, a lot of mall owners have huge debts due to financing and these restrictions are only ensuring greater difficulty in servicing these obligations."
The constraints faced by the state in stepping up vaccination has been the "primary reason" that the staff could not get both the doses. However, 80 per cent of the staff has received at least a single dose, the SCAI said.
"With the prevailing restrictions, malls will not be able to open and operate as it would be at least a month (tentatively September-end) before a sizeable number of our staff gets their second dose and meets the criteria, provided it is available and there is no shortage," the statement further added.
Lifting restrictions after months, Maharashtra had allowed malls to reopen last Wednesday. The visitors and the staff have to be fully vaccinated, the state government said.
The state has the highest overall number of cases across the country. Even though it has registered a drop in daily cases, there have been concerns over the spread of more infectious Delta variant.