Chennai: All mandates regarding social distancing norms were brought down in Tamil Nadu on Saturday as people across five high-risk municipalities in the state stepped out to buy essentials ahead of a total lockdown beginning Sunday.
Tamil Nadu had announced that it would enforce more stringent clamps on the existing lockdown in select municipalities: Chennai, Madurai, Coimbatore, Tiruppur and Salem. Red zones in these areas have been witnessing a surge in the coronavirus cases apparently unexplainable through contact-tracing.
The intensified curbs will kick in from Sunday morning and will be in effect till Wednesday late evening. For Salem and Tiruppur, the lockdown is shorter by a day. Across these five municipalities, a total of 725 positive cases have been reported so far.
According to a government press release on Friday, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said the coronavirus spread was edging out of control in urban municipalities and it compelled the authorities to intensify the restrictions.
The government listed essential medical services such as hospitals and ambulances, and diagnostic centres that would continue to operate in these areas. Home delivery services provided by companies like Swiggy and Zomato will also function, but standalone grocery stores and other shops such as bakeries, which have been functioning for a truncated period, will have to shut shop.
Even though the state announced that licenced wholesale vegetable markets, including the Koyambedu market, subsidised ‘Amma Canteens’ and government-authorised vegetable pushcarts will be allowed to operate, Saturday morning saw a heavy rush of people stockpiling for the forthcoming intensified lockdown period.
Soon after, social media was abuzz with photos of people indulging in panic buying.
The state government responded to the panic buying by first saying the shops will be open till 3 pm on Saturday. Later, it followed up with a further relaxation, saying that grocery shops can sell vegetables alone all through intensified lockdown.
Across markets, supermarkets and grocery stores, social distancing norms have been violated as these are the three districts that will see a complete lockdown for four days starting April 26.
The containment zones in these municipalities would come under severe disinfection cover. Twice a day, all containment zones will be disinfected. The government has warned strict measures against lockdown violators.