Chennai, May 4 : As Tamil Nadu entered the third phase of coronavirus lockdown starting on Monday and the government lifting the relaxations in green zones and non-containment areas, life is springing back to normal in the State. The government lifting the relaxations comes in the backdrop of spurt in number of corona cases, which crossed the 3,000 mark (3,023 so far) and Chennai becoming the epicentre of the disease and was one among the 12 Red Zones with 1,458 cases and stood on top of the COVID chart in the State.
As per the government's advisory, while extending the lockdown till May 17 in line with the Union Home Ministry's directives to prevent further spread of COVID-19, all essential shops selling groceries and vegetables were open since morning. Unlike during the last 40 days, where there were restrictions in functioning of these shops, leading to people queuing up in large numbers right from the morning, less crowds were seen in front of the shops and in the market areas. This is mainly due to the fact that the government has allowed functioning of these shops till 1700 hrs as against 1300 hrs.
Meanwhile, several vehicles, including, two-wheelers, cars, load vehicles and autos (in some areas) were seen on the roads as the government allowed functioning of several state and central government offices with 33 per cent staff strength by following restrictions like wearing facemasks and maintaining social distancing. In Chennai, several arterial roads, including the Anna Salai, which were closed for the public on April 23 as people freaked out in blatant violation of the lockdown guidelines, were thrown open to the public. Likewise, several flyovers and subways in the city, which remained closed due to lockdown, were opened and barricades removed.
Though the Anna Salai was opened for traffic, police have put up barricades in key junctions to ensure those with valid reason were allowed to proceed. What's more, traffic signals were switched on and in several areas people waited for the signal to turn green. However, public transport services, air, rail, EMU and Chennai Metro services continued to remain suspended and temples, places of worship, beaches, theatres, bars, saloons and spas, parks, zoos, amusement parks, gyms, sports stadiums, shopping malls and other places where people congregate were also closed.
While containment zones remain closed for business, people started heaving a sigh of relief as the administration not only extended the timings of shops selling essentials, but also allowed opening of standalone shops from 1100 hrs to 1700 hrs and hotels and restaurants allowed parcel services from 0600 hrs to 2100 hrs. The government also allowed opening of stores selling hardware, cement and construction materials, electrical items, mobile phones, computers, household products and opticals, besides plumbers, electricians, home appliance mechanics, carpenters, household help, home care service providers with necessary permission from the authorities. (UNI)