Chennai: With the Tamilnadu government announcing one week total and complete lockdown from tomorrow, there was a fear of markets turning ‘super spreaders’ as a large number of people the markets and grocery stores to stock up essentials on Sunday.
Throwing the social distancing norms to wind, people unmindful of the rising Covid cases-several of them without wearing masks- thronged the market areas across the State, triggering fears of these places turning out to be a potential super spreader.
As part of restricted lockdown from 10 to 24 May morning, the State government allowed opening of vegetable and grocery stores from 6 to 10 am.
As the spread of the virus was yet to be brought under control, Chief Minister M K Stalin after holding discussions with medical and healthcare experts, announced full lockdown for a week from today without any relaxations.
Since all vegetable and grocery stores will be completely shut, Stalin, with a view to enable people stock their necessary essentials for a week, announced that all shops will be open till 9 pm Saturday and Sunday.
Soon after the announcement, several shops opened their shutters Saturday evening and people started queuing up. Some shops also ran out of stock.
The scene was no different on Sunday as a large number of people thronged the shops to purchase the essentials without following the physical distancing norms, despite the State government making it clear that vegetables and fruits would be supplied through mobile vehicles in their areas for the next one week in coordination with the local bodies.
There was mad crowd in fish markets and those selling meat as thousands of people jostled for space, without heeding to the warnings given by the police.
‘Make hay while the sun shines’ goes a popular saying. And true to this, vegetable, fruit and flower vendors cashed in on the chance and hiked the rates manifold as the prices of vegetables hit the roof.
The prices of tomato, which was sold at Rs 10 per kg Saturday, shot up to Rs 70 to Rs 80, while that of beans even crossed the Rs 200 mark per kg from Rs 50 to 60.
The lower and middle class who felt the pinch said the prices of all vegetables and fruits have been increased four to five times.
“But we have no other alternative as we have to stock up vegetables for the next one week,” one of the person in West Mambalam, who came to buy vegetables, said in an exasperated tone.
As there has been artificial increase in the prices of vegetables, Food Minister Sakkarapani warned of action against those selling vegetables at higher prices.
The unprecedented increase in prices of vegetables invited criticism in the social media.
Many people took to Twitter and blamed the State government for introducing the total lockdown in a hurry making Sunday shopping a ‘super spreader’ event. Several people were shocked to see such a mad crowd in markets, fish and meat stalls.
Visibly annoyed over the milling crowd, a senior citizen said, “see the crowd. If one has Covid symptoms, imagine how many people will be infected”.
“If the health department take tests of thousands of people who have thronged the market places across the State, definitely there will be huge rise in positive cases,” he said.
PMK founder Dr S Ramadoss had a dig at the government and said the weekends relaxations has resulted in mass crowd gathering and has defeated the very purpose of the intense lockdown commencing from today.
In a tweet, he said the relaxations have proved dangerous and added that people are crowding in shops and markets, which would lead to spread of Covid.
He also termed as ‘unnecessary’ operating long distance bus services as it would result in exporting the infection from one district to another.