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BENGALURU/NEW DELHI : Online retailers and food-tech companies are expected to make a joint representation to the Maharashtra government, seeking an extension of the deadline for vaccination or covid tests of their delivery riders, four industry executives said.

This comes a day after the state imposed new restrictions to contain the spread of infections. The new rules mandate that all delivery personnel are either vaccinated or carry a negative RT-PCR report, valid for 15 days, starting 10 April. Failure to comply with the rule may attract penalties.

The state’s mandate presents a logistical nightmare for e-commerce and food-tech companies as central government guidelines only permit people older than 45 to get vaccinated, and a shortage of covid kits has led to delays in testing.

The companies are expected to also request the Union home ministry and the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) to either extend the timeline of vaccination of riders or do away with the rule altogether.

The written representation is expected to be made by the end of this week, two of the four people said, seeking anonymity.

“Although e-commerce firms have begun covid testing of delivery personnel in Maharashtra, it is coming across as a challenge due to the short deadline. There have already been meetings to discuss this," said one of the executives cited above.

Meanwhile, several restaurant and hospitality associations are expected to request the Maharashtra government to relax the curfew timing for food delivery and revoke the compulsory testing rule for frontline delivery workers, according to a member of the National Restaurant Association of India.

“Trade bodies will see how the testing goes and then make some recommendations on behalf of e-commerce firms. We are not sure if the state government has the necessary infrastructure to carry out large-scale testing in such a short period," said another executive from a trade body, who didn’t want to be named.

On Monday evening, industry body Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry urged the government to open up vaccination for the 18-45 group.

Meanwhile, e-commerce and food delivery firms are ramping up testing of riders.

“In view of the Maharashtra government’s new guidelines, we are taking definitive steps to ensure frontline workers, including delivery, product installation executives and kirana partners, are tested for covid as expected while delivering shipments," said a Flipkart spokesperson.

In a written response, a Zomato spokesperson said the company will be covering the cost of vaccination and RT-PCR tests required for its delivery personnel.

“We are studying the latest state government guidelines to continue deliveries during curfew hours and on weekends in Maharashtra. We continue to practise stringent preventive measures for the safety of our associates, such as adherence to social-distancing norms, mandatory use of face covering and daily temperature screenings for delivery associates," said an Amazon spokesperson.

In a note, the Retailers Association of India had also appealed to the Union health ministry to consider prioritizing vaccination for frontline retail workers. Nearly 90% of frontline retail workforce is younger than 45 years, RAI said.

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