Chennai Residents Throw Covid-19 Caution to the Wind, Throng Markets This Festive Season

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As Chennai was gearing up to celebrate Ayudha Pooja celebrations on Saturday, massive crowds flocked to the many markets in Chennai’s business center near the Madras high court. With roads jam-packed with people, several individuals could be spotted without masks, and caution, too, was thrown to the winds as residents were seen flouting social distancing norms.

According to a report in The Times of India, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) officials have issued a stern warning to people and shopowners, asking them to avoid overcrowding, but not many are paying heed to the directive. Besides this, monitoring by the corporation and police has not been stringent enough.

Senior civic body officials told the publication they were expecting people in large numbers to throng the markets ahead of the festival season and had organised frequent awareness initiatives.

"We are not lowering our guard, but we have not gone on any additional drives or taken any drastic steps on Saturday,” an official said. Regular enforcement activities by teams headed by assistant engineers at every ward level continued," an official was quoted as saying.

The official added that they had initiated action on complaints and even undertaken in-person checks. Additionally, a sanitary inspector was authorised to shut down shops if there it was found that the enterprise was flouting rules.

Responding to a question about the absence of any substantial measures, the official explained that the number of Covid-19 infections in the city had declined and herd immunity was beginning to be established.

Notably, the results of a serosurvey, released last week, showed nearly one-third of the population in the city has been exposed to the pathogen. The results of the second serosurvey conducted here recently to detect the transmission of coronavirus has shown a cumulative positivity rate of 32.3 per cent, authorities said.

This was more than the number of those found affected by the virus during the first survey conducted in July. "Results of Chennai Serosurvey-II: Serosurvey samples tested- 6,389 out of which 2,062 are positive for IgG antibodies presence with overall positivity of 32.3 per cent," Greater Chennai Corporation said in a brief statement.

The official added that shopkeepers were worried as their business could be closed down by the lowest rank personnel for flouting guidelines, however, in order for it to be reopened, the nod has to come from the commissioner's office. “This is a big hassle that shopkeepers are not willing to take and hence are smarter,” the official said.

Meanwhile, Vellaiyan, president of Tamil Nadu Vanigar Sangangalin Peravai (association of traders) told ToI that single shops don’t permit patrons to enter and they sell products only if they are wearing masks. He added that sanitisers are placed at the shops' entrance and physical distancing is ensured. He outlined that GCC authorities were demanding the closure of shops even if patrons did not wear masks or paying heed to distancing norms outside the shop.

Velliyan said that they have objected to this and have registered a petition with the GCC commissioner and the chief minister.