From cloth store to biryani place: How TN threw COVID norms to wind

Videos show huge crowds at textile showrooms and shops, where people are seen moving around without facemasks and social distancing

The Greater Chennai Corporation sealed Kumaran Silks, a textile showroom in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai, after videos showing large crowds gathering at the store emerged on social media. Photo: Screengrab

Tamil Nadu witnessed two ‘frightening’ incidents that might throw light on how indiscriminate people could be, in context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Amid concerns over the economic slump where multiple businesses have been suffering after the COVID-induced lockdown, the Greater Chennai Corporation on Tuesday (October 20) sealed Kumaran Silks, a textile showroom in Tamil Nadu’s Chennai, after videos showing large crowds gathering at the store emerged on social media.

The video, which was reportedly shot on October 18, shows a huge wave of people at the store, who are seen moving around without facemasks. Social distancing too was not followed, according to the video that went viral on WhatsApp.

This development comes amid concerns over another wave of COVID-19 cases since this month marks the beginning of the ‘festival season’, which could lead to increased shopping and crowd-gathering, thereby increasing the rate of infection.

Earlier, a 29-year-old business owner, who ran a biryani shop, was arrested on Sunday at Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district after large crowds in front of his shop violated COVID-19 guidelines.

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According to media reports, the owner had put out advertisements that a plate of biryani would be sold for Rs 10 at his new shop in Aruppukottai between 11 am and 1 pm on Sundays.

People had gathered in large numbers in front of his shop before 11 am, which resulted in the crowd spilling out on the road near it.

The shopkeepers, anticipating a large number of customers, had kept around 2,500 packets of biryani ready. However, by the time they sold 500 packets, police officers had arrived at the spot and chased away the crowds who were blocking traffic.

The owner was then taken into custody. Charges under Sections 188 [disobedience to order duly promulgated by public servant], 269 [negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life], and 278 [making atmosphere noxious to health], and the Epidemic Diseases Act and the Disaster Management Act. were filed against him.

Two other police personnel were also stationed in front of the shop to ensure no further crowding.

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However, a police officer in-charge of the whole issue reportedly made arrangements to ensure that the remaining packets of food were distributed to the poor and needy.

The owner was later released on station bail, with a warning not to attempt business tactics that would lead to such results amid a pandemic.

This kind of selectively stringent action over certain forms of crowding might make one wonder why it is not followed everywhere (for example, the TASMACs).

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 infections have been dropping in the state over the last few days, with Tamil Nadu recording just above 3,500 fresh cases on Monday and a little over 38,000 people remaining under treatment.

State capital Chennai too saw fresh cases falling below the 1,000 mark after a gap of 25 days.

The 3,536 new infections on Monday took the state’s COVID-19 tally to 6,90,936 while the death toll mounted to 10,691 with 49 more fatalities, according to the health department. The active cases stood at 38,093, reflecting the continuing trend of robust recoveries in the state.

Chennai posted 885 new infections on Monday. The last time the state capital had recorded less than 1,000 infections was on September 23, when the city recorded 980 cases.

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