Multiplex Owners Protest as Omicron Shutters Delhi Cinemas

Rising omicron cases in Indian national capital region of Delhi caused the administration to declare a yellow alert on Tuesday. Among the businesses to be instantly affected are standalone cinemas and multiplexes, which have been forced to shut down again after long periods of closure over 2020 and 2021.

The restrictions arrive after Delhi’s highest single-day spike in infections in six months on Monday, with 331 new cases. The omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus now accounts for a significant portion of these, making up some 30% of new cases over the past two weeks. The Delhi administration has a Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP), where if the percentage of samples turning positive are above 0.5% over two days, it triggers a yellow alert.

Kamal Gianchandani, president, Multiplex Association of India, said in a statement: “The Delhi government’s decision to shut down cinemas in Delhi while enforcing the yellow alert of the Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has caused massive uncertainty and could lead to irreparable damage for the Indian film industry. The period since March 2020 is undeniably the most challenging period faced by Indian cinemas in their long history. After being allowed to reopen, cinemas have already demonstrated an ability to operate safely for the public and employees via usage of enhanced ventilation systems, enhanced hygiene, and other safety protocols.”

“Not a single outbreak of COVID-19 anywhere around the world has been traced to a cinema,” Gianchandani added. “While, we fully understand the need at government’s end, to take necessary preventive measures, we would request that cinemas should get equal treatment with comparable industries and institutions. Instead of closing the cinemas, we would urge the Delhi Government to consider introducing double vaccination requirement to enter cinemas, as is the case in some of the other states (including Maharashtra). Alternatively, the seating capacity restriction of 50% can be reintroduced at cinemas. We call on the government to recognize the unique social, cultural and economic value of the Indian film industry, and to provide the support it so desperately needs to survive this unprecedented period.”

Overall, India has recorded 6,358 new cases and 293 deaths in the last 24 hours, according to the country’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. Of these, omicron accounts for 653 cases.