The government needs to lift its game, and pretty quickly, after the recent flip-flop in communicating clearly about the status of Indian grocery stores as essential services and allowed to remain open in the Alert Level 4 complete lockdown. 

The Indian Weekender has received the latest update from the media spokesperson of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Enterprise (MBIE) just now stating that the “decision has now been made” that Indian grocery stores can remain open during the lockdown period. 

“The decision has now been made that ethnic supermarkets are essential services and can continue trading during the lockdown,” the media spokesperson said. 

This media statement is in complete U-turn of what the Indian Weekender had earlier received the previous evening on Wednesday, March 25, where it categorically conveyed that all Indian stores that fall under the category of “Asian supermarkets” will remain closed. 

“Asian supermarkets are to close during alert level 4 as the foods sold in Asian supermarkets are largely also sold in larger supermarkets. We are trying to prevent community transmission by ensuring people limit movement to their suburbs.”

The information is on the Covid website here: under ‘decisions made by cabinet’,” the comment from media spokesperson of MBIE had said on Wednesday, March 25. 

Confusion in community and business owners

The Indian Weekender’s earlier accurate reporting as it received from authentic government sources on this much important issue had caused much confusion among the business owners and the wider community - with emotions divided on both sides - as everywhere else in life. 

Many business owners who had closed their respective stores relying on the Indian Weekender’s reporting from authentic sources had called the publication complaining as many other stores continued to do their business. 

Similarly, many passionate community members who are not happy with the visible price increase in some of the ethnic stores - which is anyway part of the bigger malaise where national-level supermarkets also being alleged for increasing prices unreasonably - expressed their ire against IWK’s reporting where clearly the responsibility lies with the government in providing timely, accurate information. 

Either way, the confusion is clearly emanating from the lack of clarity in government decision-making. 

Regardless, the Indian Weekender has sought more clarity on the issue, on when exactly the "decision was made" about keeping the ethnic stores open. 

However, expectedly, these are difficult times for everyone, including the community, business owners, and the government, and there is a need for remaining calm and compassionate towards everyone, while we collectively strive to keep everyone safe and get through these difficult times.