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Several retailers and consumer goods companies have requested the government to include their frontline workers and staff at neighbourhood stores in the second phase of the covid-19 vaccination programme, starting 1 March.

The first phase of vaccination began on 16 January to vaccinate the country’s healthcare and frontline workers.

In the second phase, those above 60 years of age, and those above 45 years with co-morbidities, will be inoculated against covid-19. An estimated 100 million people are expected to be covered under this phase.

Metro Cash and Carry, Ikea and Spencer’s are among the companies which have made representations seeking vaccination for their frontline staff.

“The guideline is currently to focus on those over 60, and those over 45 with co-morbidities. What the government is doing is quite sensible, and we support that. We are saying in the next round, give priority to the frontline staff of all the retail companies and also small shopkeepers who probably don’t have a voice," said Arvind Mediratta, managing director and chief executive, METRO Cash and Carry India.

Mediratta is also chair of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry’s (Ficci) committee on retail and internal trade, which includes retail companies covering food and grocery, general merchandise and apparel.

Mediratta said the company has made representations to the Karnataka government to incorporate kirana store workers in the next phase.

Retail workers employed in the stores are typically in the younger age profile. “The average age maybe 30-32 or even younger," he added.

Swedish retailer Ikea is also part of the Ficci initiative. “Ikea India is participating in a Ficci committee bringing together retailers for vaccinating retail frontline workers. We are looking forward to the next steps. During the pandemic, retail has contributed immensely to support citizens and the economic recovery. Keeping this in mind, Ikea will partner with all stakeholders to accelerate vaccination for retail co-workers and hope there can be more industry collaborations to make this happen quickly," said Parineeta Cecil Lakra, country people and culture manager, Ikea India.

Apart from seeking vaccination for staff, private sector companies have also been vocal about helping speed up the vaccination drive in the country.

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