New Delhi: Social distancing went for a toss in various states as India entered the third phase of the lockdown on Monday with further easing of curbs except in containment zones. Irrespective of police force deployment, chaos was created outside the liquor shops and heavy vehicular movement was witnessed in parts of national capital leading to massive traffic jams. Also Read - #CoronaWarriors: Doctor in Bengaluru Gets Resounding Welcome as She Returns Home After COVID-19 Duty
The Narendra Modi-led government has granted more relaxations in the third phase of the lockdown in the districts classified as Green, Orange and Red zones depending on the exposure to COVID-19. Notably, there have been two extensions to the lockdown which was imposed on March 25 to combat the spread of the virus, which has claimed nearly 1,400 lives so far. Also Read - Economic Fallout of COVID-19: Rahul Gandhi to Interact With Nobel Laureate Abhijit Banerjee Today
Tipplers queued up in large numbers since morning at liquor shops–a common sight in large parts of the country where they reopened as anxious people formed more than a kilometre long queue in several areas.
In Delhi, many government-run liquor shops which opened after 40 days had to be shut as people who gathered outside the outlets did not maintain 2-gaj ki doori, forcing the police to force to disperse the unruly crowd.
Speaking to reporters, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said the Delhi government rushed into opening liquor shops at a time when the national capital was still in the red zone’, adding it should review its decision in view of huge crowds outside these outlets which increased the risk of spread of COVID-19.
In some places in Karnataka, people made a beeline to liquor shops even before day-break and performed “special prayers” with flowers, coconuts, incense sticks and camphor and burst crackers in front of the stores. An elderly woman identified as only Dakamma and stated to be aged 96 years was one among the crowd in Shivamogga waiting to get some liquor.
Stand-alone liquor shops in West Bengal reopened in the three zones but the police closed down several of them within an hour as people started jostling with each other in front of the outlets.
Following the guidelines of the Ministry of Home Affairs(MHA), liquor stores and ‘paan’ shops will be allowed to function in all the three zones except in containment areas while maintaining social distancing and ensuring that not more than five persons are present at one time at the shop.
Besides, people rushed to markets posing a challenge for the authorities to maintain social distancing. In Haryana, Bhiwani’s Circular Road witnessed a long queue outside a bank and an elderly man complained that social distancing was not being maintained.
For 40 days, entire country has been eagerly waiting to exhale, but flouting social distancing norms and mocking preventive measures may end up squandering away the gains achieved by India so far in the fight against COVID-19.