RAI raises concerns over random Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for mall customers by BMC

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The new requirement to conduct RAT tests for entry to malls paid by customers is discouraging them from visiting shopping centres and malls.

Retailers Association of India (RAI) has raised concerns about the requirements for random Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) for mall customers ordered by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recently. RAI believes that the requirement is resulting in differential treatment to malls and its customers creating a feeling of injustice.

Speaking about conducting random RAT for customer entry at malls in Mumbai, Kumar Rajagopalan, CEO, Retailers Association of India (RAI), said “RAI appreciates the measures that the State Government of Maharashtra and the local authorities are taking to curb the spread of the pandemic. However, the recent order to conduct random RAT on mall customers for entry is creating a discriminatory environment as customers in malls have to pay while in all other places it is sponsored by the BMC. It is also leading to economic turmoil for malls and retailers who are already struggling to revive from the aftermath of the pandemic.”

RAI has submitted a representation on the issue stating that malls should not be targeted for such implementation because they have no option but to comply. The Retailers Association has raised the following concerns with the authorities with regards to the testing requirements:

1. There is a lack of capacity and capability in conducting these tests at mall entry. With only one person conducting the test, customers are being forced to wait for long periods, leading to crowding which is detrimental to social distancing. The long wait time is also causing inconvenience to customers and leading to loss of business as customers prefer to go away rather than wait.

2. The requirement of customers having to pay for the test is creating a sense of discrimination and injustice among customers coming to malls. It’s unfair that customers wanting to shop at malls are being compelled to pay for their test, while those being tested at highstreets, railway stations, airports, etc are not charged.

3. The new requirement to conduct RAT tests for entry to malls paid by customers is discouraging them from visiting shopping centres and malls, which are already witnessing diminished footfall compared to pre-pandemic levels.

RAI has been highlighting the fact that malls are controlled spaces and hence it is easier to create a safe shopping experience within malls as compared to highstreets and local markets. But the test will lead to malls falling out of favour for customers. This will in turn push the malls into further financial duress and impact the thousands of people they employ.

Malls have been strictly following all SOPs on preventive measures issued by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India to ensure the safety of the staff & citizens. At the onset of the pandemic, Retailers Association of India (RAI) & the Shopping Centres Association of India (SCAI) had formulated detailed & comprehensive guidelines that have been strictly being followed by members to curb the spread of the virus.