The Government of India had announced that Unlock 1.0 would start from June 8th. The lockdown has led to a lot of economic pressure forcing SMSE’s and business communities to resume activities and open their businesses to customers during easing of lockdown. On the other hand, there is a lot of uncertainty and fear among the general public and business communities. They are unsure about the outcomes of opening up their businesses that would expose their staff and customers. Lack of information on guidelines and the lack of confidence that other people would follow these rules has added to this uncertainty.
Developing further on our relief work since April in Udupi and Mysore through distribution of ration kits, hygiene kits and providing Training and Awareness sessions for local communities, we have come out with a project called “Kundapur market COVID ready”. This project will help the community at large to be COVID ready when the lockdown is lifted and when it becomes critical for the community to assume responsibility in containing the pandemic and for life to go on. The “Kundapur market COVID ready” project aims at containing the foreseen second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and turn this around by:
- Promoting awareness among the general public, specifically business community on following COVID-19 guidelines.
- Ensuring that people are working together and taking responsibility by following guidelines.
Making the business community come together and promote healthy and safe practices that will make business interactions safe for all.
Such simple measures can enable a safe environment for business to resume and contain the spread of COVID-19. This project is undertaken in collaboration with the District Commissioner (DC), Udupi district and the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Kundapur. We are keen to develop “Kundapur COVID-19 market ready” project into a replicable model that can be implemented in other locations as well. FSL India will initiate and oversee execution of the project by:
- Forming a Core Committee comprising of representatives from different backgrounds including Industries, Police, Tehsildar, Health officials, etc. The Core group will be responsible for monitoring and taking necessary steps where required.
- Collecting information and developing creative local specific solutions based on Government guidelines.
- Developing content for dissemination among the general public using pamphlets, posters, videos on social media. etc.
- Forming and training a Volunteer group of local youth who will drive the awareness campaign.
The Kundapur market area is populated by around 600 small shops, whose owners have reopened and resumed operations. Under Phase 1 of the “COVID-19 Market ready” project, we decided to visit these very essential members of the economic chain and motivate them to join our initiative.
We began our 3-day activity at 10:30 am, on 23rd June 2020, with an Inauguration ceremony by Shri K Raju, the Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Kundapur, Shri Hariram Shankar, Asst Superintendent of Police and Shri Nagabhushan, Taluk Health Officer. Local volunteers from Junior Chambers (JC) and Clean Kundapura Project (CKP) were also present, along with our staff.
We recruited a group of 6 local volunteers – Rohini, Shricharan, Raksha, Shreya, Akshay, Nagarathna – to support us in our initiative. After training them on the subject and safety precautions, we formed 3 teams, comprising of our staff and local volunteers. Between 23rd to 25th June, from 10am to 2pm, each team was assigned the task of visiting all the shops from:
- Team 1: Shastri Circle to Parijatha Circle
- Team 2: Parijatha to Junior College Road, up to the main bus stand, and
- Team 3: Right side of Shastri Circle up to the main bus stand.
They distributed government approved posters on COVID-19 prevention and safe practices to be followed, to the shopkeepers. Each shopkeeper put up these posters in their premises and also agreed to put them up in as many public places as possible, as well as attend our awareness sessions. We finished around 2 pm, had lunch together and then had a review meeting to plan for the next day. On the 24th and 25th June, our teams covered the remaining areas.
We visited a total of 600 shops and informed shop owners about the objective of COVID-19 Market ready. Most shopkeepers had a positive reaction to our initiative, and agreed that the public too has a huge responsibility in following norms. 571 shop owners agreed to play an active role in our initiative and join our WhatsApp group.
We observed that few shops which receive large number of customers, find it difficult to maintain social distancing norms. Also, wearing masks for prolonged periods can be a challenge for staff due to difficulty in breathing. Shops followed sanitization and temperature checking procedures. However, there can be an improvement in this area, as we observed that some of the guards or persons checking the temperature did not know the significance or were aware of what they were looking for.
Recommendations and Next Steps (July and August 2020)
1. We are now in the process of creating a WhatsApp group that will be used effectively to broadcast important information related to COVID-19 among shop owners.
2. Phase 2 involves a “Workshop and Awareness session” for shop owners on July 27th and 28th at Bhandarkar’s College hall, Kundapur. We plan to conduct a total 4 training sessions over 2 days. The topics that will be covered are:
Introduction to COVID 19 ; Prevention and Safe practices to be followed ; Importance of frequent hand washing, especially after handling Currency ; Keeping the money counter clean ; Importance of Social Distancing ; Demonstration on Hand washing techniques, thermal gun usage, and social distancing ; Precautions to be taken during travel.
3. Phase 3 which is planned for August will include promoting COVID-19 awareness by disseminating information to the general public through audio and video messages in public places including Bus Stands, Buses, Autos, Restaurants and Saloons.