People indulge in panic buying after the Uttar Pradesh government released a list of hotspots in Noida that would be sealed till April 15. (Express file photo)
Residents resorted to panic buying in Noida on Wednesday following a surprise announcement by the UP government that Gautam Budh Nagar and Ghaziabad, among other districts, would be ‘sealed’ in the wake of rising COVID-19 cases. While a clarification was issued within few hours that only 'hotspots' — 13 in Ghaziabad and 12 in Gautam Budh Nagar — will be sealed and not the entire district, it had little effect on the hundreds stocking up on essential supplies.
According to UP government officials, at the hotspots, all movement will be restricted from Wednesday midnight and even grocery shops and banks will be shut. No one will be allowed to enter from outside.
Amid the panic, appeals were issued by the administration asking people to refrain from stepping out. “No need for panic buying. Identified hotspots shall be sealed and home delivery of essential commodities and services shall be available at all places. We shall take strict action against rumour mongering,” tweeted Gautam Budh Nagar District Magistrate Suhas L Y.
Ajay Shankar Pandey, DM Ghaziabad, made a similar appeal: “There are rumours circulating that there will be a curfew. This is fake news and I appeal to the public to not give in to them. The lockdown is in place and like before, there will be no issues with supply of essential items in the coming days.”
According to locals, on Wednesday afternoon, messages began circulating on social media, RWA groups and other platforms warning people of a curfew until April 13. Soon after, large crowds and long queues were seen in Sectors 30, 50, 62, 137 and Greater Noida Extension, as people elbowed their way to vegetable vendors and general stores to stock up on essential items.
Traffic congestion was also witnessed in areas in Greater Noida Extension, as most people drove to stores in other areas after local shops began running out of essential supplies.
“Some people were buying more than 10 kg of onions and tomatoes. There has been a disruption in supply anyway since the lockdown; this made it worse. Most shops in the area are running out of supplies and we don't know how things will fare in the coming days,” said a resident of Sector 137, where a person had contracted the virus.
Similar scenes were seen at Ghaziabad's Sabzi Mandi in Janakpuri and areas in Pratap Vihar, with crowds blocking the roads.
Nilesh, a resident of a high rise in Sector 78, said: “In the last few days, not many people were venturing out as a mechanism for deliveries was being figured out. Since Wednesday morning, rumours and messages began doing the rounds that no one will be allowed to step out. Most of my neighbours rushed to nearby stores to purchase milk, rice, dal and other essential items in bulk. We are still awaiting clear instructions as to what exactly will happen.”
An official said the administration is formulating supply mechanisms in the hotspots. In Noida, a senior police officer said they will begin making announcements against panic buying in crowded areas and advise people to stay home.
Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: What can cause a COVID-19 patient to relapse after recovery? | COVID-19 lockdown has cleaned up the air, but this may not be good news. Here’s why | Can alternative medicine work against the coronavirus? | A five-minute test for COVID-19 has been readied, India may get it too | How India is building up defence during lockdown | Why only a fraction of those with coronavirus suffer acutely | How do healthcare workers protect themselves from getting infected? | What does it take to set up isolation wards?