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Caution and concern pull Calcuttans off the roads

Markets and restaurants report dip in footfall in the past 48 hours
A deserted stretch of Mayo Road on Saturday afternoon

Monalisa Chaudhuri, Debraj Mitra, Snehal Sengupta   |   Calcutta   |   Published 12.07.20, 03:01 AM

A combination of caution and concern appeared to have pulled Calcuttans off the roads after the state administration announced a stricter lockdown and turned several pockets into containment zones.

Fewer people have been stepping out of their homes since the word about the new containment zones has been out, many people Metro spoke to have said.

The relative volume of traffic on Thursday, the day the renewed lockdown came into effect, and Friday was less than that of other weekdays, traffic police officers have said. Many markets and restaurants have reported a dip in footfall in the past 48 hours.

“The traffic pressure here (at the Chingrighata crossing) is usually high in the evening as vehicles leaving the city after office hours often queue up to the landing of the Parama flyover. But the queues have been missing in the past two days,” an officer posted on the Bypass near the Chingrighata crossing said.

A traffic sergeant posted near the Chiriamore crossing in north Calcutta had a similar report on the reduction in traffic volume in the past 48 hours.

At least 28 places have been earmarked as containment zones in Calcutta and 27 in Salt Lake where movement has been completely restricted for the next few days. Several people who have not fallen in the zones have chosen to stay indoors as a mark of caution.

Arijit Mukherjee, who lives in Tollygunge, is supposed to take his wife and daughter out for dinner on Sunday. His daughter will turn five that day. “The new curbs have made us apprehensive. I will order food and have it with family members at home,” Mukherjee said.

Sandipan Chakraborty, a resident of Salt Lake’s FD Block (a containment zone) said he had stocked up on essentials and medicines. “I was going to my workplace thrice a week. I have elderly parents at home…. I am not stepping out unless it’s an absolute emergency,” Chakraborty who works in Sector V said.

The renewed curbs could not have arrived at a worse time, shop and restaurant owners across the city said.

The number of diners has gone down in the past 48 hours and restaurant owners fear the slide will continue in the coming days. Home deliveries are happening, though, some restaurant owners said.

“Some of the regular patrons had started coming back. Now, they will think twice before stepping out, even if they live far from the containment zones,” the owner of a Park Street restaurant said. “We are thinking of survival now. Profit is far away.”

Kabir Azhar, the director of Aminia Restaurants, said the group’s flagship outlet in New Market saw a reasonable footfall on Thursday and Friday but the other outlets did not. “New Market is not closed. Several offices in the Esplanade area are open. The New Market outlet always sees some footfall. But the outlet in Behala, for example, saw a sharp dip in visitors after the renewed curbs were announced.”

Other shops in New Market complained of a “steep dip in footfall” in the past two days. “The business was just gaining momentum when all this hype over containment zones scared people and shoppers have again stopped coming. We are sanitising the market every day. All shops are now open till 7pm (instead of 6pm),” an official of the SS Hogg Market Traders Association said.

Shiladitya Chaudhury of Oudh 1590 said the number of diners had gone down from Wednesday. “But the online orders are encouraging.”

The number of online orders has prompted him to start the annual “Biryani Festival” across all Oudh outlets from Monday.

City Centre II in New Town has recorded a dip in footfall since Thursday. On Saturday, the usual weekend gathering that was picking up steam over the past few weeks was significantly less, mall manager Balram Kumar Singh said. The dip is around 30 per cent compared to the past few weeks, Singh said.

Marshal House and Mehta Building in central Calcutta have seen a dip in footfall in the past 48 hours.

“The number of customers has been negligible in the past two days. Many have placed orders over phone, though,” Prabir Samanta, who runs a hand tools shop in Marshal House on NS Road, said.

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