With Covid-19 vaccination in full swing across the country, people facing sectors like the retail and trade are now seeking protection against the novel coronavirus. Retailers and traders, who are at risk of Covid-19 infection due to their constant exposure to public spaces, have urged the government to include them into the frontline workers list. The move, they argue, will boost the chances of a speedy recovery in the consumer retail sector.
Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) has approached the Union Health Minister Harsha Vardhan for inclusion of shop floor level employees in the sector in the ongoing vaccination drive. The body has also sought vaccines for all age groups of workers. Currently, apart from people above 60, only people above 45 years of age and with co-morbidities are being vaccinated.
“Millions of people, who are working at trading and retailing businesses are at huge risk of Covid infection. We have urged the minister to help us vaccinate them. It will surely boost their morale and help in recovery of businesses”, said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general, CAIT.
While the Covid vaccination drive is growing every week – with more number of people being vaccinated – data shows early half of all the frontline workers are yet to receive a jab. Till March 16, some 15 million frontline workers have received at least one dose of either of the vaccines, compared to the targeted 30 million workers. That suggests depending on government facilities alone will not be feasible for an additional group of workers like in the retail and trade sectors. CAIT represents some 40,000 trade associations and 70 million traders.
CAIT has proposed a hybrid model, where the government may bear a part of the vaccine cost (limited to Rs 250 per dose) so that business owners can get their employees vaccinated at private facilities. “We are ready to fully cooperate with the government. We understand it will be difficult for them to vaccinate everybody at this point. So, a cost sharing model is also being worked out”, said Khandelwal.
While the government is yet to assure traders and retailers, according to sources, the ministry is considering the proposals and may come out with a revised offer by the end of the month.
Retailers Association of India (RAI), a body representing 500,000 retail stores in the country, has written a letter to Rajesh Bhushan, secretary at the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare seeking inclusion of retail industry staff in the list of priority recipients of COVID vaccine.
“The hard work, struggles, and risk of retail staff (frontline workers of the retail industry) must also be appreciated along with the frontline workers of the medical and the law enforcement staff. They too have to face hundreds of people in the course of dispensing their duties and run the risk of getting infected. We would like to seek your kind attention that an opportunity of getting vaccinated may be given to all those employees or salesmen of the retail stores who continue to serve the general public while risking their lives to ensure unhindered food, grocery, and essentials”, it wrote.
Like RAI, CAIT has also argued in favour of vaccinating the frontline staff at consumer good outlets first. While, during the first phase of the lockdown, between late-March to end-April, last year most physical retail outlets were closed, those selling essentials like groceries were operational at limited capacity. Further, like e-commerce firms, neighbourhood kirana stores were delivering daily essentials at doorsteps in many locations, the association said.