Covid Curbs: Shop owners continue protests | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 07, 2021 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:36 AM, April 07, 2021

Covid Curbs: Shop owners continue protests

Demand shops, malls be allowed to open

Traders took to the streets again yesterday, demanding that the government allow shopping malls, markets and shops in the capital and in other districts to open.

Holding placards that read "We do not want lockdown, open all markets", the demonstrators continued their protests for the third consecutive day yesterday, the day when the highest number of Covid-19 patients were detected and the highest number of patients died.

Business leaders also demanded stimulus packages for small traders before enforcing the "lockdown".

Traders staged demonstrations in New Market, Mirpur and a few other areas in the capital against the government's decision to keep business establishments closed to curb the infection rate of Covid-19.

Businessmen from Rajshahi, Barishal, Chattogram, Tangail, Faridpur and Patuakhali yesterday said they suffered huge losses due to the restrictions.

Asked, Anwar Hossain, general secretary of shop owners association at Gauchia market of Dhaka city, said they want to keep their stores open following the health guidelines.

"We have a lot of debt. How would we be able to repay unless we can sell our products during the main sales season ahead of Eid?"

"What kind of lockdown is it when the book fair, industries and garment factories are open while a handful of sectors are closed?" he asked.

Rizwan Rahman, president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said if businesses are allowed to be open, then shops should be included in them as they are also businesses.

"However, if lockdown is mentioned then total lockdown minus emergency & essential services should be enforced," he said.

He said the government decides to keep shops shut, given the drastic situation, these small entrepreneurs will need enhanced stimulus package with blanket coverage with ease of access to finance through NGOs and other organisations.

"If we shut them down, then they must get access to finance for survival. Any hard lockdown will require the government to provide them support monetarily," he said.

Sheikh Fazle Fahim, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI), said the apex chamber has been in discussions with businessmen from different districts, including Dhaka, and government officials to find a solution to the problem.

"Hopefully, the problem will be solved in a day or two. But the way factories can be run, shops cannot be run the same way. Traders need to understand this too," he said.

Dewan Aminul Islam, president of Dhaka New Market Business Owners' Association, said sales were recovering slowly.

"In this situation, if the market and our shops are closed ahead of Eid, we will be bankrupt."

The government enforced the restrictions from April 5 to 11. According to the restrictions, all shops and shopping malls will remain closed. But shops can continue wholesale and online services. In that case, they have to maintain health guidelines.

Buying and selling kitchen items and daily essentials will be done only in open spaces. In that case, the authorities concerned/local administration will ensure the services.

In Rajshahi, owners of small businesses opened their establishments yesterday, defying the restrictions.

Many traders and their employees opened shops at the RDA Market in the heart of the city on the second day of the seven-day "lockdown".

Maksudur Rahman, organising secretary of Rajshahi Babasai Oikya Parishad, an alliance of 110 local business bodies, said they were demanding that their businesses be kept outside the purview of the restrictions.

Our Rajshahi staff correspondent reports after visiting the RDA market in the morning, he saw most shops there were open. However, the number of buyers were low.

Md Sujon, owner of a shoe store, Sheikh Shoes, kept half of his store shuttered and the other half open.

"I opened the shop for price tagging the new shoes," he said, adding that he purchased the shoes worth around Tk 11 lakh and those reached his store the day before the "lockdown" began.

Many traders in Tangail kept their shops open on the second day, reports our correspondent there.

 

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