Reopen the malls, spare real estate–Economic Times

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Restaurants in shopping malls are reportedly looking at moving out of these precincts that have been shut due to the pandemic-induced lockdown. That is needless pain for the real estate industry. Malls should be allowed to reopen. Regulating the number of people allowed inside the mall, and diligently following safety protocols that include maintaining social distancing, proper sanitation and air-conditioning will bring down the risk of contamination. The key concern in these fully enclosed spaces is about the danger of germs and viruses circulating in the air. So, malls must have air-conditioners supported by the right filters that can trap the virus. If airlines can use high-efficiency particulate air (Hepa) filtration systems (that can remove up to 99.9% of the airborne microbes in the air) to keep people safe, there is no reason why the same cannot be done in malls.

Air in a cabin gets cleaned in the AC unit and in its Hepa filters. This clean recycled air is mixed with fresh air from outside and passed into the cabin. And the downward wash of the air reduces the risk of cross-contamination, according to the International Air Transport Association. Malls should rejig their air-conditioning systems appropriately, to incorporate ultraviolet chambers for recirculated air, along with Hepa filters. Deploy counters at entry and exit and control entry to calibrated against exit, to limit the number of people inside the mall.

Real estate developers, saddled with debt, need to offload their inventory. Their return of investment only dips with the closure of malls. Why should the real estate sector be made to needlessly suffer? Some states that include Delhi and Karnataka have sought the Centre’s nod to reopen malls. It must concede. That is part of reopening the economy.

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