A spokesperson for the Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) said, “We thank the Maharashtra government for allowing malls to restart. The decision brings huge respite to lakhs of people who are dependent on malls for their livelihood. However, the government guidelines require that customers above the age of 18 years who are visiting the mall, must fulfil the criteria of having taken both doses of the Covid vaccine, and observe a gap of 14 days between the date of second vaccination and the mall visit. Considering that the percentage of fully vaccinated people in Mumbai is only 18%, footfalls will also continue to be very low till such time this restriction is relaxed. On the first say we saw just 10-15% pre-Covid footfalls.”
Visitor numbers issued by individual malls corroborated this fact. Sachin Dhanawade, COO, retail and real estate, of Growel’s 1O1 Mall in Kandivali said, “Due to the condition that mall visitors should be fully vaccinated, footfalls were barely 5% of the usual that we usually witness on August 15 (pre-pandemic). The footfalls would have been higher at 20% to 25% of the pre-Covid Independence Day had partially vaccinated customers been allowed to enter.”
Like elsewhere, here too, customers who are not fully vaccinated had to be turned away. Dhanawade said, “We hope that the government will soon relax the rules to allow mall entry for citizens who have taken even a single dose. Malls should be allowed to operate at par with other shops and markets. Malls are controlled spaces and in fact have the ability to follow safety and hygiene protocol more efficiently than markets.”
The mall experience has altered visibly in the post-Covid era. Growel’s, for one, has installed contactless facilities like a sensor-based parking tickets dispenser, elevator buttons, washrooms taps and soap dispensers, and potable water spouts. The food court allows contactless orders and billing. Social Distancing Officers and special staff are deployed to assist customers. Isolation rooms are available and medical staff is on standby for emergencies.