Grocery stores can operate during week-long shutdown, reiterates govt

Kathmandu, March 24

Security agencies forced even essential service providers in some areas of the capital to down shutters on the first day of the week-long nationwide lockdown today, despite the government’s clear instruction to let such outlets remain open.

The Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Supplies reiterated today that outlets catering to essential services and goods were allowed to provide their services throughout the lockdown period.

The ministry had to reiterate the government’s decision to let grocery and other stores dealing in essential items open since grocery store owners complained that the police did not allow them to open their outlets today.

Pramila Kharel, a resident of Chabahil, complained, “Cooking gas in our house will sustain hardly for four-five days, but all the outlets are shut.”

In their defence, Nepal Police said groceries were discouraged to open for the welfare of the public to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“It is crucial that the public gets access to essential goods in such a situation. But the problem is that almost every shop in the valley caters to essential goods, including food items. This has resulted in confusion over which outlet should be allowed to open,” Sailesh Thapa Kshetri, information officer of Nepal Police, told THT.

Baikuntha Aryal, secretary at MoICS, said the ministry would soon issue a notice asking outlets of essential goods to operate and provide services. However, such outlets should discourage panic-buying among shoppers and ensure that people do not gather in large numbers at one time in their outlets, stated the ministry.

“The government has already mentioned that the lockdown decision will not affect supply and operation of industries delivering essential services. Outlets selling food items, vegetables and medicines are allowed to operate,” said Aryal.

According to him, industries related to production and distribution of essential goods and services, including food items, dairy products, drinking water, drugs, internet and petroleum products are allowed to continue their businesses during the lockdown period.

Aryal added that the government would provide services through the outlets of Salt Trading Corporation and other government enterprises across the country, if necessary. Stating that the country has enough stock of all essential goods and that groceries would be allowed to sell essential commodities, he urged consumers not to stockpile.

Officials at STC said they were ready to provide services through their outlets and were awaiting a direction from the government. Earlier, STC had issued a statement that the corporation had enough stock of salt, sugar, cooking gas and other essentials.

The government is also preparing to operate mobile van service in Kathmandu valley and other major cities to ensure the availability of necessary essential goods for the public, said MoICS officials.