The choice is either to set up a hand sanitizer station or shut shop for a few days, and Shivam, who runs a paan shop at Ameerpet is undecided. In the last ten days since more novel coronavirus cases have been reported in Telangana, his business has nosedived. “I haven’t made enough this month to even pay the shop’s rent. My choice is to either keep the shop open which is a huge risk or, shut it down. My mother is suggesting I do the latter,” he tells #KhabarLive.

Officers from the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) visited Shivam’s paan shop, asking him to start wearing gloves and a mask while handling cash and keep hand sanitizer dispensers for customers. “GHMC has asked every shop in this street to make these arrangements. But from where will I get these items? It’s not easy to get them now,” says Shivam, referring to sanitizers and protective gear flying off the shelves.

Shivam is not the only one whose business is struggling. People who run shops like Kirana stores and tiffin centers have found themselves struggling in light of the COVID-19 pandemic in the state as the footfall of customers has reduced.

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For instance, at Santhosh Dhaba, an eatery and tiffin center at SR Nagar, the usual breakfast crowd is absent and none of the staff are wearing masks, even though GHMC asked them. “They directed us as we are a registered outlet; but what about the unregistered ones? First, tell everyone to wear. If we alone are seen wearing masks, even the existing customers won’t come to our shop,” says Yogender S, who runs the outlet.

“The business is down. We have reduced the quantity of idly and dosa batter, we haven’t made enough money this month to even pay the rent. The shop next to us already closed a few days back. We don’t know what to do; if we close even for a few days, then it becomes really difficult to reopen the shop and find staff,” he adds.

While Shivam and Yogender are struggling to keep their business afloat, a few tea, paan and tiffin stalls have already chosen to down their shutters.

At Ayyapa General Store, the shop owner prefers digital transactions these days over cash, as many people prefer not exchanging currency notes due to fear of contracting the coronavirus disease.” Not everyone uses digital payments, so my business is at some risk. But what choice do I have?” says Anjaneyulu, the store owner. “This shop is my only source of income, it’s not possible for me to close it,” he adds.

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Meanwhile, Balaraju and his brother, who has been run a tiffin stall near BK Guda Park near ESIC hospital for the past three years, say that government officials only told them to wear masks and not did give any further instructions. Their stall is unregistered with the GHMC and is the only form of income for the family of seven. “When the Prime Minister spoke and asked everyone to stay at home, but didn’t say anything about how people like us would earn a living. Already people have stopped coming to the shop, but we don’t have an option to close down,” Balaraju says.

To soften the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on economic activity, states like Kerala have announced a financial package worth Rs 20,000 crore, and free rice for all regardless of economic status. Kerala government has also announced that it will give Rs 1,000 per month to families without any social security pension and has set aside Rs 100 crore for this purpose.

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Meanwhile, Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao has asked all essential services such as departmental stores and Kirana shops to remain open. However, there were no relief measures announced for the shop owners whose business is suffering. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the state as of Friday stands at 19.

The Telangana government had from March 16 earlier shut all educational institutions, cinema halls and public gatherings to prevent further spread of COVID-19 in the state. Government officials have been on a war footing since, trying to create awareness about how to use masks, the importance of washing hands and social distancing.

GHMC has also asked malls and commercial establishments to arrange for masks and hand sanitizers for their staff. Is has asked malls to set up thermal scanners and has deployed a team of 300 people to oversee that this is implemented. #KhabarLive


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