Textile markets and diamond units in Gujarat's Surat have been allowed greater flexibility to operate from Saturday on the condition that they will adhere to a set of norms that include mandatory Covid-19 tests for traders and staff, officials said.
Restrictions were imposed on the functioning of the two sectors last month as Surat witnessed a sharp increase in Covid-19 cases over the past few weeks.
As on Friday, Surat has 13,663 coronavirus positive cases.
"As per the SOP till July 31 declared by Surat Municipal Commissioner BN Pani, diamond units in Mahidharpura, Mini Bazar and Choksi Bazar localities could open between 2 pm-6 pm, and only one worker was allowed on a polishing mill," said Dinesh Nevadiya, regional chairman, Gem and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
From August 1, the markets are allowed to open from 12 noon to 6 pm, and an additional worker is allowed to sit on a polishing mill provided he tests negative in a rapid antigen test conducted at the expense of the diamond units, or has recovered from the infection, Nevadiya said.
Textile markets have been allowed to remain open from 10 am to 6 pm from Monday and Saturday, while they had to follow an odd-even shop number formula with timings set from 10am to 5pm all through July, a Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA) functionary said.
"The Surat Municipal Corporation has asked all traders and market staff to compulsorily get themselves tested for Covid-19. Markets also have to set up camps for antigen tests at discounted rates," said FOSTTA general secretary Champalal Bothra.
All traders and workers will have to download the Aarogya Setu app, and follow norms like wearing face masks etc, he added.
There are 65,000 textile shops in 185 markets in Surat, employing around 3.5 lakh workers, but hardly 20 per cent shops are currently open as 70 per cent of labourers have not returned after leaving for their home states during the lockdown, Bothra said.
"Many power looms and textile processing units are also closed for want of labourers," he added.