Omicron Wave: India's Restaurants, Clubs Face the Heat as Xmas, New Year Mass Gatherings Are Banned
06:00 GMT 25.12.2021 (Updated: 10:41 GMT 19.07.2022)
India has registered more than 350 Omicron cases so far with the cities of Delhi and Mumbai reporting the highest number of infections. Over 7,000 new COVID-19 cases are being reported every day.
As the tumultuous year of 2021 draws to an end, several restaurateurs, club owners, and event organisers in India are seeing their income plummet as state governments tackle the spread of the Omicron variant by introducing curfews and banning mass gatherings, leading to the cancellation of events over Christmas and New Year.
Restaurants have been unwilling to reveal how much they've lost because of cancellations but a source with knowledge of the matter tells Sputnik that an artist with an average business margin of roughly INR10Mln ($133,000) will have lost between INR3Mln and INR5Mln ($40,000 to $67,000).
Some of these artists include popular Punjabi singer Hardy Sandhu, singer-rapper AP Dhillion, Akhil Sachdeva and many others.
Even customers have been caught out. One customer, Rahul Mishra, had to cancel his pre-booked Christmas party with friends at a club that was expecting an international DJ to perform live.
“Each ticket cost us INR5,000 ($67) - I don’t know what’s going to happen now as we haven’t got any refund. I don’t know if we’ll get it in the future. What’s the point of making a pre-booking if the artists are not going to be there?” Mishra lamented, adding that the show was almost sold out.
However, despite the ban on mass gatherings, several restaurants and clubs will continue to run special live performances of artists at their venues with restricted occupancy.
“The amount of footfall we used to get earlier on Christmas and New Year was maddening as it would leave guests with no space to move around freely," said Sudhir Rawat, a manager at a Delhi restaurant.
"Restaurants and clubs used to be able to accommodate both reservations and walk-ins. But this time, only those guests with reservations will be allowed. Walk-ins will not be permitted,” he added.
Restaurant and club owners also fear their venues might be shut down if they get caught flouting COVID-19 protocols.
The municipal corporations of the districts across the states have deployed enforcement teams to keep an eye on public places and ensure strict COVID-19 guidelines are complied with.
On Wednesday, the Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) said that according to its COVID-19 protocols issued on 15 December, all social, political, entertainment, sports, cultural and religious events have been prohibited.
No mass gatherings will be held. All restaurants and bars are allowed up to 50 percent seating capacity the directives instruct.
One of the top clubs, Diablo in South Delhi’s Mehrauli area, was closed on Thursday after the district DDMA team made a surprise inspection and found a large gathering of around 600 people at the club in violation of COVID-19 protocols.
“People have not realised that four hours' fun can cause disaster by becoming a super-spreader of coronavirus," Delhi resident Neha Sharma told Sputnik.
"We all know what the deadly second wave of COVID-19 pandemic did to our country - it brought us a big health crisis with millions of people dying,” she added.
Another Delhi-based party-goer, Ritika Khokhar, told Sputnik that the decision to ban mass gatherings is fair enough when one sees people going berserk while partying or shopping at markets.
“We can’t afford to have a third wave and we can’t survive another lockdown as the businesses will have a major hit affecting every single person’s livelihood and profession," Khokhar said.
"People are trying to revive businesses and get back to normal life but it’s better to be safe than sorry. I hope people realise that,” Khokhar added.
Delhi State Chief Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday outlined plans and arrangements, bracing himself for an eventual caseload of 100,000 patients a day.
Some of the arrangements include increasing the number of hospital beds available and improving the oxygen supply.
The Delhi Government has decided to meet the Omicron challenge mainly through home isolation, since what it has observed so far and reviewed by the experts is that the new strain does not require hospitalisation.