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Footfall lean at Bhopal’s restaurants, malls on Day 1

A worker cleans an escalator in Bhopal’s DB Mall after it threw its doors open on June 8.

A worker cleans an escalator in Bhopal’s DB Mall after it threw its doors open on June 8.   | Photo Credit: A.M. Faruqui

Families appear reluctant to step out; students, regulars throng eateries

Restaurants and hotels in Bhopal flung their doors open and billboards outside malls illuminated once again for the first time after the lockdown kicked in, on Monday (June 8). However, not many seemed keen on stepping out.

Though outlets only in containment-free areas had opened, allowing entry of customers after 83 days, families seemed loath to visit eateries, go shopping, or simply drive around the city that is slowly waking up from the pandemic-induced slumber.

“An outing is refreshing, even necessary sometimes. You need to unwind and give vent to all the stress,” said K.N. Pandey, 74, a former doctor who finally resumed his daily ritual of meeting friends at the Indian Coffee House, New Market, the city’s meeting point for journalists, politicians and government officials.

Also read: Guarded welcome as malls, cafes and temples reopen after 75-day lockdown

A doctor for 30 years with the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited, Mr. Pandey dropped in at the restaurant at noon to catch up with a group of 10-12 journalists. “We will have our coffee standing outside today. Why occupy half the restaurant which offers limited tables after the pandemic?” remarked a journalist with a national news agency.

Visitors are thermal screened the moment they step in, asked to sanitise their hands and then shown to a table. “The seating capacity has been cut by more than half, from 120 to 50. And now we run three shifts for staff, instead of two previously, in order to avoid crowding in the kitchen and the counter,” said C. Kumaran, manager. The restaurant chain has six branches in Bhopal, and 140 across Madhya Pradesh

Controlled entry at mall

In the city’s bustling economic enclave MP Nagar, DB Mall, the city’s biggest, is limping back to life. At least 50% of its outlets were thrown open on Day 1. Clutching metal detectors in one hand, and a thermal scanner in the other, security guards deftly scanned visitors in cars and on two wheelers at the parking entry. Inside, there are slots marked with white stripes, painted wide apart to ensure physical distancing, for two-wheelers. At the mall entrance, visitors are thermal screened, and asked to download the Arogya Setu mobile application before they are allowed entry.

“Wearing masks, thermal screening and social distancing have become the new normal. So, we are not facing issues enforcing them. We are ensuring controlled entry,” said Sanjay Jain, Business Head of the mall. “The office is running with half the staff strength now. During the lockdown, mall eateries had to either store consumables at other locations or dispose of them,” he said.

Housekeeping staff were sanitising all touch points — lift buttons and hand rails — every half hour, he added. Escalators are painted with yellow shoe prints set wide apart, indicating where to stand. And some stores even mark standing spots for customers with white tape.

Fewer visitors

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., the mall witnessed 700-800 visitors, considerably fewer than the 5,000 on a weekday before the pandemic. “Leisure has become as important as taking precautions for one’s well being. We are a social animal. How long can you stay indoors? But this doesn’t mean you step out without caution and care,” said Sanjay Garg, marketing manager at a Bhopal-based firm, visiting the mall with family.

At a roadside restaurant in 11 Number Market, only physical distancing and hand sanitisation are possible. “It’s mostly students and bachelors who come to us. Many have returned to Bhopal after travel restrictions were eased,” said a restaurant’s owner, requesting anonymity.

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Printable version | Jul 11, 2020 8:06:53 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/footfall-lean-at-bhopals-restaurants-malls-on-day-1/article31783108.ece

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