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CM Pinarayi to meet retail sector to discuss demand to open on all days for extended hours

The Kerala Vyapara Vyvasaya Ekopana Samathi will seek easing of COVID-19 restrictions ahead of the Bakrid-Muharram-Onam shopping season.

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan will meet retail traders’ association representatives here on Friday to discuss whether the State’s current COVID-19 situation, including the unyieldingly high test positivity rate (10% and above), allowed the administration to permit shops to open on all weekdays for business.

The government has currently restricted non-essential retail trade to alternate weekdays. It has limited opening hours to 8 p.m. Moreover, it has imposed a State-wide lockdown on weekends.

The Kerala Vyapara Vyvasaya Ekopana Samathi (KVVES), the most prominent traders’ association, will seek easing of COVID-19 restriction that would allow traders to open on all days ahead of the Bakrid-Muharram-Onam shopping season.

The KVVES office-bearers met at the Vyapara Bhavan here in the morning to list the demands they hoped to raise with the Chief Minister. The traders have also sought the removal of the weekend lockdown to facilitate holiday shopping.

The sector had remained closed since May 8, causing severe loss of business and lengthy workforce lay-offs. Family-run neighbourhood convenience stores are the worst hit. Most ran on credit extended to neighbours. When their debtors failed to pay, many such shops had no option but to board up.

Matters had come to a head last week, with traders warning they would rebel against the government’s pandemic regulations. They dared the government to stop them from opening for business on all days from July 15.

The trader’s association backed down after Mr. Vijayan warned them against jeopardising the fragile COVID-19 situation in the State. He also reached out to traders and said he would meet KVVES office-bearers in person to listen to their woes.

Mr. Vijayan’s “harsh words” to traders at their “wit’s end” had drawn the Opposition’s ire. KPCC president K. Sudhakaran and Opposition Leader V. D. Satheeshan had slammed Mr. Vijayan for allegedly turning a “blind eye” to the concerns of the moribund retail sector.

Traders have argued that clamping down on shop timings limiting the number of business days would inevitably cause crowding and long lines outside shops.

An official said the KVVES had demanded that the government allow shops to open on all days and late into the night. The trader’s organisation has promised that shop owners would adhere strictly to the COVID-19 protocol and ensure the mask mandate and physical distancing in their environs.

Mr. Vijayan had on Friday said that the current restrictions would continue undiluted till July 20. Shops could remain open till 8 p.m. in localities where the average TPR is below 15%. The retail sector can only open on alternate days. However, banks can admit customers on all weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. The government has allowed electronic shops to open on all days.

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