Cinemas, entertainment parks and bars will continue to remain shut, the government said on Wednesday as part of its rules for Unlock 3, opting for lives over livelihood at the cost of disappointing restless consumers and businesses.
The notification spelling out areas of continuing restrictions comes as a blow to several industries that are already struggling after four months of lockdown.
Re-opening dates will be decided separately, based on the assessment of the situation, the home ministry said as it unveiled a list of curtailments that include all “social, political, sports, entertainment, academic, cultural, religious functions and other large congregations". Metro rail, too, was kept shut.
The news came as a further blow to the movie business that has already suffered an estimated loss of around ₹1,000 crore in the first half of 2020, compounded by zero revenue for the first time in its history. A large number of single screens and independent properties have shut shop, while the temporary closure of multiplexes has deprived shopping malls of nearly 30-40% footfalls.
India’s screen count of around 6,327 single screens and 3,200 multiplexes in 2019 is projected to come down drastically due to the 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 evidently (will be) the last to reopen," Kamal Gianchandani, director at the Multiplex Association of India, said. Theatre owners, hopeful of being allowed to reopen this time, had prepped cinemas with safety and hygiene measures.
The guidelines also continued to impose restrictions on opening up of bars, placing further challenges on the food services sector that is already reeling under the impact of the earlier lockdown, restricted timings and consumer fears over visiting crowded spaces.
India’s restaurant industry employs 7.3 million people. The National Restaurant Association of India (NRAI) estimates that nearly 40% of them have been impacted by lockdowns and business closures due to covid.
“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," said Anurag Katriar, NRAI president, and executive director and CEO of deGustibus Hospitality.
“Job losses have only intensified in the last month-and-a -half and our ability to continue people on the payrolls is diminishing. Earlier, smaller companies were struggling, but now even the bigger ones are finding it hard."
There was good news for gyms and yoga centres though. Almost four months of suspended operations have created a dent in the fragmented fitness market where a majority of gyms, fitness centres and yoga studios are standalone companies that are largely dependent on running working capital. Strict lockdowns have impacted revenues leading to job losses. According to industry estimates, there are around 90,000 gyms and yoga studios in the country, employing over a million people.
Schools, colleges and coaching institutions will continue to remain closed till 31 August.
Saumya Tewari and Elizabeth Roche contributed to the story.