The meeting of the Council of Ministers held on Monday decided to extend the prohibitory order imposed in Kathmandu valley to 15-days from April 29 to curb the surge of COVID-19 infection in the valley.
During the previous lockdown various businesses had to shut down and thousands of people lost their jobs. So, will this current lockdown bring the same problems or are we doing things differently?
The new safety protocols state that those dealing with health, peace and security, electricity, internet, drinking water, waste management, cooking gas, petroleum supply, vegetables, food, milk and medicines can move around. However, while restaurants had to close and rely on deliveries, there is still confusion about food delivery being allowed.
Tornado sandwich, a small sandwich hub at Boudha, faced a lot of problems during the first lockdown and decided to take their service online. Suman Heuju, the co-founder of ‘Tornado Sandwich’ says, “This lockdown was a bit of a surprise to us as all of the businesses were just gaining the confidence to run again. This will not just hurt a restaurant’s economy but also the country’s.”
How do you balance health and economy? Heuju says, “We can regulate safety by making strict rules and only regulating and allowing takeaways for restaurants and cafes.” At present, not only did 'Tornado Sandwhich' have to close their establishment but due to the lockdown they are still waiting for permission to do deliveries.
Ishan Pandey, the founder of Pawan Sweets mentioned “Currently the problem we are facing is how to manage. Most of the staff had to go home and now there is no guarantee that they will return again.”
The prohibitory order has created a gap between the supply of workforce in Pawan Sweets as they will have to search for staff all over again which is very time consuming.
Many food businesses are responding to online service and delivery alternates but till now they have not been able to operate. There is no clarity if they can move around to deliver and what kind of permissions is required. With all the uncertainty, the future looks very challenging as they still have to pay rents and taxes despite zero income and being forced to pull down their shutters.
Pandey adds, “Maybe the government can help the businesses by subsidizing the taxes and rents that we have to pay. Maybe then we can sustain during these hard times.”
Satish Kumar More, President of the Confederation of Nepalese Industries (CNI) says, “The government has imposed a prohibitory order in the valley but I feel business activities should be allowed to take place with necessary safety measures.”
The District Administration Office (DAO), Kathmandu has issued a new notice regarding vehicular movement during the prohibitory order which started on April 29 and is effective for 15 days. The notice says vehicles involved in the delivery of essential goods and services do not require a vehicle pass during the prohibitory order. However, riders have stated that they face problems and are not allowed to be out on the streets. It is still very unclear how restaurants and their food delivery services can be operated.