Coronavirus Outbreak: Assam ignores social distancing as districts open shops; residents crowd marketplaces to buy meat, fish and vegetables
Assam witnessed a breach of lockdown due to coronavirus as people came out of their homes to buy fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish across the state after district administrations allowed shops to open on Friday
Assam witnessed a breach of the national lockdown as people came out of their homes to buy fruits, vegetables, meat, and fish after district administrations allowed shops to open on Friday.
Since 8 am market places across the state were flooded with buyers and sellers despite a nationwide ‘lockdown’ forcing district administrations to withdraw its previous order and close shops again.
On 24 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days in order to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus that has killed over 25,000 and infected over 5.6 lakhs globally.
“We were surprised to see that market places, which were closed till tomorrow, were crowded since morning, defying the norms of social distancing that are to be followed to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Instead, people were seen jostling with each other to buy fish, meat, and vegetables,” says Utpal Kumar Das, a lawyer in Guwahati.
Similar scenes were seen in market places in other districts of Assam, posing a grave threat to public health. This happened at a time when reports have emerged that a large number of people in the state may have hidden their recent travel history in a bid to avoid compulsory quarantine.
As per a press statement issued by the Assam chapter of the National Health Mission, though no person in the state has been tested positive of the coronavirus till now, there are 599 persons who have a record of directly coming in touch with COVID-19 patients.
On the other hand, there are 37,397 persons who have travelled to Assam from COVID-19 affected nations and are currently under quarantine.
Paresh Malakar, a publisher in Guwahati has expressed his fear in a Facebook post where he expressed apprehension that many might not have declared their recent travel history.
Stating an example he said that many who have travelled from different parts of India to Assam are living in flats in Guwahati without getting noticed. "It is the duty of the family members of the persons who have travelled to Assam from different regions to declare (themselves) and keep them quarantined. If they themselves do not do that, should their neighbours too remain silent? We have informed the authorities and the authorities have already served notice in the name of such persons (who have recent travel history) in our apartment," he added.
Perhaps it was because of this fear that reports of shoppers crowding the marketplace since 8 am on Friday was met with a shrill response in the social media.
“It is a callous order to open fish, meat, and vegetable markets. How will the government ensure that the crowds have not become a carrier of the disease?” Said Namita Barua, a resident of Guwahati.
Interestingly, the consumers who came out and jostled in the crowd also had their own reason to do so.
Shantanu Deka, who carried home loads of fish and meat after the markets opened told Firstpost he had to step out to purchase meat and fish as his children were not willing to have vegetables.
“Children in my home do not like to have vegetables in every meal. In fact, they are not used to it. Since meat and fish shops were closed for the last two days, the food was getting monotonous for them. So I had to go out," he said.
Biswajit Pegu, the Deputy Commissioner of the Kamrup (Metro), the district which covers a major part of the Guwahati city said that all the district administrations in the state faced the same problem.
“Finally, we had to pass orders to close down the fish, meat, vegetable shops by 11 am. The earlier order was issued keeping in mind the need of the people to collect the necessary items,” he said.
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