People in Chennai and three neighbouring districts on Thursday geared up for a 12-day intensified lockdown, beginning Friday, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.
Chief Minister K Palaniswami on June 15 announced a lockdown in Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur and Chengalpattu districts between June 19-30 subject to some relaxations for essential and emergency services.
With the lockdown to start from Friday, the state capital witnessed some crowding at vegetable and grocery shops as part of panic buying even though the state government had announced shops will be kept open during the next 12 days.
A good number of people living in the city suburbs decided to pack their bags and go to their native towns to escape the lockdown, mainly on account of economic reasons.
Heavy traffic was seen on the roads leading out of Chennai and the toll gates were clogged with vehicles. Owing to the crowding, toll collection was suspended so that the vehicles can pass through faster.
While some were leaving due to economic reasons like lack of work during the next 12 days, others were going back in order to escape from the infection.
Meanwhile, the government has ordered closure of meat stalls for the next 12 days to prevent the virus from spreading.
Palaniswami also announced that the Amma Canteens will continue to function and food will be provided free of cost to the people.
The government has allowed ration shops to function from 8 am to 2 pm, but those in containment zones will remain closed and doorstep delivery of items will be made. Vegetable, grocery, petrol outlets will function between 6 am and 2 pm, while mobile vegetable, fruits shops will be allowed between 8 am and 2 pm.
Hotels and restaurants are allowed only parcel sales between 6 am and 8 pm. Online players are allowed to accept orders and make doorstep deliveries.
Chennai Police Commissioner AK Viswanathan said main roads like Anna Salai and others will be closed for traffic for the next 12 days. He also urged the citizens to do their shopping for essential items within a two kilometre-radius from their homes and without using their vehicles.
Viswanathan also warned of severe police action against those who violate the lockdown orders, saying drones will be used to monitor and control the violators.
(With inputs from agencies)