The news should come as a hit to India’s movie business that has been under stress for the past four-and-a-half months, with a loss of around Rs. 1,000 crore in the first half of 2020 compounded by zero revenues for the first time in history
Bad news continues for India’s consumer economy with movie theatres, entertainment parks and bars, among other activities not having been granted permission to reopen in the guidelines issued by the ministry of home affairs as part of Unlock 3.0 on Wednesday. The notification that clearly favours lives over livelihood in the battle against covid-19 comes as a blow to several industries that are already struggling.
Dates for opening of these will be decided separately, based on the assessment of the situation, the MHA notification says, in the list that includes all ‘“social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large congregations" apart from metro rail.
The news should come as a hit to India’s movie business that has been under stress for the past four-and-a-half months, with a loss of around Rs. 1,000 crore in the first half of 2020 compounded by zero revenues for the first time in history. This has not just led to umpteen single screens and independent properties shutting shop across the country but depriving shopping malls that depend majorly on multiplexes, of footfalls of nearly 30-40%. India housed about 6,327 single screens and 3,200 multiplexes as of 2019 though the screen count is estimated to come down drastically at the end of this crisis.
“The film sector has been badly hit over the past four-and-a-half months, given that it was one of the first to shut down and the evidently the last to reopen," Kamal Gianchandani, director at the Multiplex Association of India said. Theatre owners were extremely hopeful of permits to reopen this time, prepping with safety and hygiene measures.
MHA guidelines also continued to impose restrictions on opening up of bars, effectively crushing the food services sector that is already reeling under the impact of the earlier lockdown, restricted timings and consumer anxiety around visiting crowded spaces.
India’s restaurant industry employs 7.3 million people. NRAI estimates that nearly 40% of them have been impacted by lockdowns and business closures due to covid. Several of those employed have also returned to their home towns.
“In these guidelines, the one positive is the night curfew being lifted, but we are very surprised that they haven’t opened bars and allowed service of liquor," Anurag Katriar, President, National Restaurant Association of India, and Executive Director & CEO, deGustibus Hospitality said. “Job losses have only intensified in the last month and a half and our ability to continue people on the payrolls is diminishing. Earlier the smaller companies were struggling, but now even the bigger ones are finding it hard.
Good news comes for gymnasiums and yoga centres though. Almost four months of suspended operations has created a dent in the highly fragmented Indian fitness market with majority of gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios being standalone and largely depending on running working capital. Strict nationwide and state lockdowns have impacted their revenues leading to job losses. According to industry estimates, there are around 90,000 gyms and yoga studios in the country employing over one million people.
Mumbai-based fitness discovery and booking startup Fitternity's co-founder and chief operating officer Jayam Vora said that apart from adhering to sanitisation measures it is high time that gyms will have to adopt technology to facilitate social distancing norms once customers return to resume their fitness routine.
"We have preempted that gym operations will never be the same post covid outbreak. Technology will power pre-bookings where slots will be given to people to come and workout so that strict social distancing norms can be maintained. There's definitely a pent up demand as everyone wants to attain fitness which by default will result in better immunity to fight with the ongoing pandemic," he added.
Schools, colleges and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed till 31 August, as part of the guidelines. Independence Day functions will be allowed but with social distancing norms and by following other health protocols – ie wearing of masks.
“International air travel of passengers has been permitted in a limited manner under the Vande Bharat mission. Further opening up will take place in a calibrated manner," the statement said.
Lockdown will be implemented in containment zones toll 31 August, the statement said, adding that the zones “are required to be carefully demarcated by the state and union territories with a view to contain the spread of covid-19."
“Within the containment zones, strict perimeter control shall be maintained and only essential activities allowed," it said.
State government have been given the freedom to decide on activities outside the containment zones and “based on their assessment of the situation, may prohibit certain activities outside the Containment zones, or impose such restrictions as deemed necessary."
“However, there shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. No separate permission, approval, e-permit will be required for such movements," the home ministry notification said.
Saumya Tewari and Elizabeth Roche contributed to the story.