An apex body of merchant associations in Mizoram on Friday asked the state government to revise the existing COVID-19 guidelines and to allow all shops to open on a daily basis under strict adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) in all parts of the state including in areas declared as 'red-zone.'
Mizoram Merchants' Association (MIMA), the umbrella body of 23 trader associations in the state, through a statement, demanded a relief package to compensate their loss if the government fails to allow them to open their shops daily.
The association also said that it would hold an executive meeting to decide its future course of action if the government fails to revise the existing standard operating procedure (SOP).
Barring eateries, shops dealing in groceries, medicines, meat and vegetables, all shops in red-zones are now opened on alternate days on an odd-even basis in a bid to prevent further spread of COVID-19 according to the guidelines issued on February 4.
The guidelines will be in force in all parts of the state until further order.
In Aizawl district alone, about 80 villages or neighbourhoods are currently under red-zone.
MIMA president PC Laldinthara told PTI that traders and shopkeepers in the state have faced an acute financial crisis due to prolonged lockdown and closure of their shops for several days.
He said that traders and shopkeepers have put their shutters down for more than 200 days now since the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020.
He said that they have incurred huge losses and many traders could not repay their loan and room rents due to prolonged closure of their shops.
"We are now under huge financial burden as we have to pay loan interest, room rent, various bills and also salaries to our boys and girls, who are employed to tend our shops," Laldinthara said.
He said a sizeable number of traders have already permanently shut their shops for failing to pay their rents.
The MIMA president said that their opinions are sought by the government every time guidelines are made but to no avail.
"We used to request the government to ensure that traders do not face problems because we believe that shops are not the main sources of transmission. Our medical experts also agreed with us on shops. But every time SOPs are issued, we are at the receiving end," he said.
Laldinthara claimed that they have conducted a survey of over 3,500 shops in Aizawl during the festive season between December and January, out of which only one shop reported about the detection of COVID-19 cases among two employees, who were believed to have contracted from their neighbours.