Coronavirus in West Bengal: What to expect as malls in Kolkata reopen on June 8 

Walking into shopping malls and restaurants once they reopen on the 8th of June – after almost two and a half months – will be an altogether different experience amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Malls and movie halls were shut even before the lockdown was announced and there is a lot of work to be done before malls can open their doors to customers again. Movie halls however will not be opening anytime soon.

South City Mall on Kolkata’s Prince Anwar Shah road, for instance, is gearing up with thermal cameras, which a person has to walk past at the mall entrance to note whether the body temperature is normal or high.

“Support staff is reduced to half the number and is being trained to maintain proper hygiene and social distancing, touching of material will be minimised. Elevators will have a proper lift attendant to help customers. Instead of pressing the lift button with the hand, customers can press the button with their feet. Escalators will have alternate stairs between two customers. At the food court too social distancing will be maintained with each table at a-6 feet distance,” said Manmohan Bagri, Vice President South City Mall.

In addition to this, not more than 3 persons can be together as a group. The mall will be operational seven days a week from 11:00 am to 8:00 pm. However not more than 10,000-15,000 customers will be accommodated in the mall during peak and lean hours. All restrooms and washrooms have attendants and the capacity will be reduced to 50%.

Quest Mall on Syed Amir Ali Avenue too is working on contactless measures between mall staff and customers and a preferable social distancing of 75 square feet per person. At the parking lot, a contactless method of getting a parking token and payment on exit had already been in place in recent years.

“We are following all norms given by SCAI (Shopping Centre Association of India). We will ensure contactless measures as much as possible. There will be body temperature screening, sanitising of hands, contactless car parking system and one can book tickets online and use QR codes at the movie hall when operational again. We are working towards contactless payment options at the food court too,” said Sanjeev Mehra, Vice President of Quest Mall.

Here are the norms by Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) which will be followed by most shopping malls and restaurants in Kolkata:

Standard measures for mall employees

1.           Personal protection equipment (PPE)

2.           Personal hygiene

3.           Social distancing of 1.5 meters

4.           Frequent disinfection of common surfaces

Some standard guidelines for mall staff and customers:

1.           Set up the pandemic response team and pandemic crises management team

2.           Sanitisation material and non-touch thermometers on site for employee screening

3.           Personal protection equipment (PPE)

4.           Disinfect shopping mall before reopening including air filters

5.           Isolation room for symptomatic employees and customers till the time transport to hospital is arranged. Isolation room to be separate from main shopping centre.    

6.           Social distancing norms of 1.5 meters to be maintained 

7.           Pre-screening of customers before entering the lift

8.           Not more than 3 customers allowed to enter the lift. Markers to indicate where people should stand

9.           3 steps rollover on escalators between two customers 

10.        Temperature screening at mall entrance and at stores. Body temperature exceeding more than 100.4 F(38C) will be denied entry into the mall

Some basic guidelines for stores inside malls

1.           Declutter stores

2.           Plexiglass screens at checkout which work as a sneeze guard between customers and staff

3.           Temperature screening at some stores

4.           Signs displaying social distancing markings

5.           Encourage cashless payments

6.           One customer allowed every 50 square feet

7.           Customers can call stores prior to mall visit, asking to keep products aside

8.           Restrictions in product testing for shoes, make up, clothes

9.           Restricted use of trial rooms

Some basic guidelines for restaurants within malls

1.         Restaurants to operate at 50% capacity

2.         2.5 meters distance between each table

3.         Cashless payments to be encouraged

4.         Restriction in F&B services to tables

Some basic guidelines when movie halls reopen in malls at a later stage

1.     1.5 meters between seating of customers at cinema halls

2.     Online booking with QR code scanner at entrance of movie hall

There will be skepticism when the malls reopen in the city which is seeing a rising number of COVID-19 cases. However, for malls as well as shop and stall owners who have faced heavy losses for more than 2 and a half months, there is hope that footfalls will gradually increase as people adapt to the new normal of social distancing, wearing face masks and sanitisation measures.

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