The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) has welcomed the Punjab government advice to the federal government to reopen restaurants, marriage halls, cinemas and other sectors.

FPCCI President Mian Anjum Nisar, in a statement issued here on Thursday, welcomed the proposals of Punjab Cabinet Committee for Corona Control to open industries, restaurants, marriage halls and cinemas, urging National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), which is the final authority, to allow reopening of all businesses without any delay.

According to reports, the provincial committee has decided that the provincial cabinet would forward its recommendations to the NCOC for ending the lock down and reopen gyms, indoor sports, beauty salons and clinics etc in Punjab, which is a welcome step. 

He said that the number of virus-positive cases had dropped to two percent of total tests being conducted in Punjab, which is a good news. 

Mian Anjum Nisar observed that countrywide lock down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic has officially been lifted for a long times, as markets and almost every business has been allowed to reopen except restaurants, which is not fair.

He urged the National Command and Operation Center to announce a date for reopening of the eateries, as the government has assured the restaurant owners several times of reopening, which was not implemented so far.

FPCCI President said that every business took the hit during the lock down period while restaurants also incurred heavy losses, as the industry employs hundreds of thousands of workers across the province who might go jobless if the current situation persisted for a long time.

He said that the FPCCI was well aware of the miseries of this sector and had already taken up the issues at the highest level. He said that hotel industry has been allowed to reopen in several countries, as everyone has now to live with corona virus like several other diseases. So, the government should manage and allow restaurants to reopen in line with other industries and sectors.

Mian Anjum Nisar stated the marriage halls and restaurant industry has been very badly hit by COVID-19 and non-operational since March 20th, 2020. This pandemic has caused many restaurants to close down permanently while others are near to bankruptcy.

The restaurants’ bodies’ representatives have met with government authorities many times, apprising them of their plight and suggested SOP's they could take while resuming operations. 

FPCCI President said that the Punjab cabinet committee has several times sent its recommendations to the federal government for its final approval from the National Coordination Committee (NCC) but no final date of restaurants opening was decided so far.

The restaurants owners were constantly taking up the issue of reopening of restaurants with the authorities, as they also wrote to the chief minister as well as the prime minister, asking them to kindly look after this industry, which is in a bad condition but all in vain. The provincial cabinet committee decided many times to allow restaurants to reopen but never implemented this decision. 

Anjum Nisar demanded that marriage halls and marquees should also be allowed to reopen and operate at 50 per cent capacity up to a maximum of 300 guests, duly following the SOPs as approved by government. 

He said that during the closure period restaurants have incurred operational expenditure without any revenue from their own resources including payroll, salaries, utility bills, rentals etc. Therefore, financial assistance package is required for restaurants by way of working capital facility of up to Rs10 million as soft loan without mark-up. He asked the provincial minister to recommend federal government that a similar package should be given to restaurants as given to small industries and commercial shops where 3 months for loads up to 70 kilowatts be waived off.

Mian Anjum Nisar recommended that the rent of restaurants established at government owned properties and parks should be waived off at 50 per cent.