January 20: The growing impacts of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has created panic among small and medium enterprises. In the last few days, the number of infected people has been increasing at an alarming rate. As the number of infected people is increasing, the number of customers buying goods in small shops and shopping malls has been declining as well. This has caused a decline in trade as well, adding to the concerns of SMEs businessmen.
Traders are fearful of lockdown after the government has started imposing strict rules to keep the infection in check. They have been tormented for the past two years due to the lockdown and restrictions time and again to curb the pandemic.
Some of the small traders have already left their business due to the restrictions imposed by the government while the rest have not been able to pay the rent and interest on loans taken from banks. The panic among the traders has increased as the infection rate of Omicron has started increasing.
Naresh Katuwal, the president of National Entrepreneurs Federation of Nepal, an association of small and medium traders, said that the recent situation of Omicron has caused great panic among the traders.
Traders have already been handicapped by the past restrictions. He said that the traders are not in a position to face the same situation again. Instead, he said, the business should be run smoothly by following the criteria set by the Ministry of Health and Population.
The number of customers shopping in shopping malls and other shops has decreased as the number of infected people is increasing. According to Sushma Mahara, treasurer of Nepal Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Kathmandu, the number of customers visiting shopping malls has dropped sharply after the government imposed the rule that no more than 25 people can gather in a place.
She said that as the number of customers decreased, more than half of the employees working in the shop had to be given leave and stay at home.
Concerned authorities point out that traders will have to resort to other alternatives if they have to face the lockdown again. Small and medium enterprises contribute about 22 percent to the country's GDP and employ more than 1.7 million people.