Free-for-all in break in total lockdown
People flooded the streets and markets of Dakshina Kannada in Karnataka on Tuesday after the district administration relaxed lockdown conditions for nine hours.
The residents crowded shops and markets across the district to stock up on ration and other essentials during the relaxation from 6am to 3pm, violating all safety protocols, including social distancing.
The decision to ease the restrictions came after three days of total lockdown with no grocery or vegetable shops open. After Tuesday’s free-for-all, the district went into another three days of complete lockdown with no shops other than medicine outlets open.
Thousands crowded the central market in Mangalore, the district headquarters, from early morning and jostled with each other to gain access to the shops.
A district official, a representative of the state’s BJP government, said on the condition of anonymity that the administration had set certain conditions. “Only one person per family could go to the market, that too by following all safety guidelines like keeping their hands clean and maintaining social distancing,” the official said.
But the authorities had no provision to check if the shoppers were actually following guidelines.
The coastal district of Dakshina Kannada, where a large number of people have returned from Gulf countries, as of now has eight coronavirus cases. There are 28 suspected cases in hospital quarantine in the district, and another 6,000 in home quarantine.
As of Tuesday, Karnataka has reported 98 coronavirus cases, including three deaths.
Dakshina Kannada deputy commissioner Sindhu Rupesh did not answer repeated calls from this newspaper to seek her comments on shoppers making a mockery of the anti-outbreak guidelines.
Many pointed out that the same district had earlier blocked all border roads with Kerala. Dakshina Kannada officials had dumped mounds of soil to block even the main highway connecting Mangalore and Kasaragod.
A senior doctor based in Mangalore saw Tuesday’s public gatherings as “counter-productive” and “dangerous”. “It takes just one carrier to move around in such gatherings to flush all the hard work down the drain,” said the former member of the Karnataka Medical Council who did not want to be named.
The doctor found fault with the administration’s move to keep all shops shut for three-day periods. “I would say they brought it upon themselves by not allowing people to buy provisions for three days.”