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The Coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdowns, have had an adverse impact on commercial real estate too. Amid a dip in economic activity, the central and state authorities have allowed a phased reopening of commercial and business spaces, in many places, depending upon the situation. However, this reopening also means that every stakeholder should protect oneself, to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. So what does this preparedness comprise of?
Some of the practices being implemented at malls, for example, include mandatory thermal scanning at each entry of the mall. Safety checks of the customer on the Aarogya Setu app and compulsory wearing of masks, are also being enforced.
Safety of commercial real estate support staff
Rules are also being put in place, to ensure that the back-end support staff, who are most vulnerable to the Coronavirus due to the nature of their job, are safe. Besides masks, gloves and limiting the number of people at a time, commercial spaces are also ensuring that delivery trucks and vehicles are fumigated and sanitised. Service lifts are also sanitised and only regular staff can use these lifts.
Social distancing and safety measures
A six-ft distance needs to be maintained between two people. To avoid any confusion, most shops and malls have installed markings on the floors, to help shoppers to abide by the rules. Some stores are also insisting that payments be made only via debit or credit cards. At Me n Moms, located at the Unitech Group’s Great India Place in Noida, the salesmen will use a sanitiser while returning your cards, as a safety measure undertaken by the brand.
V Muhammad Ali, COO, retail division, Prestige Group, which has the ‘Forum’ brand of malls in south India, explains: “We have implemented a QR code-based contactless food ordering and billing service, maintaining safe distance between tables and a separate family section, to provide a safe dining experience for customers at the food court. Restaurants are also organising their seating to follow social distancing measures.”
COVID-19 preventive measures in common areas
While masks are compulsory for all employees and customers, the management of the malls and its various brands, are also joining hands to ensure safety, by placing hand-sanitisers in common areas, especially at entry points, washrooms and even in the stores. Contactless soap dispensers, water sprinklers and hand dryers are also present. The parking areas in many malls have also adapted to accepting contactless, digital payments.
Steps taken by retail brands
Most brands have been advised not to allow the use of trial rooms at this point of time. However, this cannot be a possibility for many retail brands. At Manyavar Mohey, a wedding collection store for men and women, clothes touched or tried out by customers are sanitised after each instance. Prestige has also ensured this at the brands in their shopping centres.
“The apparel brands will either avoid trials or make sure the garment is taken off the racks, post-trial and that it is sanitised, before being put on display again. Frequent steaming of garments and disinfecting surfaces such as escalators, cash counters, card machines, shopping bags, etc., should be done by brands to ensure a safe shopping experience,” maintains Ali.
Various multinational design companies are also intervening, to provide meaningful information to brands and businesses, regarding safe collaboration, allaying concerns about contact points, managing unforeseen crowds and situations, addressing concerns about whether others will follow safety protocols and overcoming insecurities about transitioning back to the workplace.
Guidelines for developers of commercial spaces
Earlier this year, Durga Shanker Mishra, secretary, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, also laid out the following guidelines, for developers resuming work at their residential or commercial spaces:
- Developers must brief their staff about health and hygiene practices from time to time.
- Thermal scanning is a must and provisions should be made for this, at every construction site.
- No worker should be allowed to work without a mask.
- For at least a day, all the construction material procured must be thoroughly sanitised.
- Developers cannot force workers to work in containment zones.
- Workers and people at the site must have the Aarogya Setu app. In its absence, workers should be given all the information it contains about preventing the Coronavirus disease.
Are shopping malls permitted to operate during Coronavirus?
In order to ensure business continuity, the state authorities have gone in for a phased reopening of commercial spaces, starting June 8, 2020. Depending on the state’s decision, you may see malls and commercial establishments back in action.
Is it safe to go to commercial spaces now?
Given that the Coronavirus is still spreading, venturing out without precaution is not safe. However, brands and establishments are exercising caution to ensure smooth transactions.
What are the minimum precautions to take while visiting commercial establishments?
Ensure that you wear a mask, practice social distancing, wash your hands frequently, avoid touching commonly used surfaces and make payments using digital means.