Reports of the emergence of another variant of the coronavirus have pissed off restaurants and party venues in the Kathmandu Valley, just as things were starting to improve since its forerunner left them in shambles. .
“This is extremely worrying,” insiders have said of the new Omicron variant.
Delta left the devastation behind – it claimed people’s lives, left tens of thousands unemployed, destroyed the country’s economy, and hit low-income people with increased inflation.
“Even now, it looks like another strain of the virus could prolong depression,” Araniko Rajbhandari, president of the Restaurant and Bar Association Nepal (REBAN), told The Post.
Omicron has shaken the markets and raised fears that a possible new round of virus restrictions could slow the economy and prolong inflation.
The government has said strict rules will be in place to contain the spread of the virus, and restaurateurs fear further containment. âIt has to happen. “
Countries like the UK and France are forecasting a next wave of Covid-19 in January due to the emergence of the new, more contagious Omicron variant.
On December 6, the Ministry of Health and Population confirmed two cases of this new iteration of the coronavirus in the country. The World Health Organization has called Omicron a “variant of concern”, warning that the global risks it poses are “very high.”
âWith the situation improving since the pandemic for more than a year, we hoped that business would gradually pick up. But again, a new concern has come to us, âRajbhandari said.
“We can’t imagine the damage the new variant will do to the business as restaurants still haven’t been able to pay their rents dating back to the days of foreclosure or pay the interest on their bank loans,” he said. he declared.
âMore than 90 percent of restaurants operate in rented premises,â he said. “Several establishments have had rent disputes with their owners and have been asked to vacate the premises. A few cases have even been taken to court,” he said. noted.
âThe government has not decided whether the restaurant business falls under the tourism industry or the industry category. Due to this indecision, restaurateurs have not been able to obtain refinancing service so far, âsaid Rajbhandari.
Rajbhandari said strict surveillance should be carried out in border areas and the government should impose a quarantine system for tourists from India and other countries. “This initiative will not completely stop the spread of the virus, but it will minimize the damage.”
Shovan Malakar, owner of Trisara restaurant in Durbarmarg, said the new variant has not yet caused any damage to the restaurant business, with the flow of customers remaining normal despite its discovery in the country.
“I don’t think things will come to a situation where the government will have to impose a lockdown because so many people have been vaccinated,” he said.
Malakar hopes the restaurant industry will not be affected as it suffered during the first and second waves of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Restaurants were completely closed for months during the first lockdown. They were then allowed to operate a take-out system before resuming in-person meals.
There are around 450 restaurants affiliated with REBAN in Kathmandu, Pokhara, Sauraha, Butwal, Narayanghat and Surkhet. Each restaurant employs 30 to 35 people.
Nepal reported 242 new cases of coronavirus in the past 24 hours without deaths on Sunday, bringing the number of infections nationwide to 824,222.
Most of the restaurant workers who returned home during the lockdown have not returned to work. Restaurants in Thamel, Lazimpat and Jhamsikhel which depend on foreign tourists are still struggling.
The emergence of the new variant has also caused concern for party venues.
“I get daily phone calls from owners of party venues outside the valley asking if the government is going to impose the lockdown or a restriction,” said Krishna Prasad Pandey, spokesperson for the National Party and Federation Palace. Restoration. âThe situation is uncertain.
The impact of the Omicron virus has yet to be seen, but entrepreneurs have started to feel anxious, he said.
According to the federation, around 7,000 party venues across the country with a combined investment of around Rs25 billion are affiliated with the federation. About 100,000 people are directly employed in these establishments.
âWe don’t have exact data on how many businesses have collapsed,â he said. âMost of the small party halls have closed their doors after being unable to pay the rent. ”