Chennai, May 18 : Amid spurt in number of corona cases, which has breached the 11,000-barrier, besides claiming 78 lives, the fourth phase of lockdown began in Tamil Nadu on Monday. While extending the lockdown yesterday for another two weeks till May 31 to tackle the virus spread, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami announced more relaxations in 25 districts, barring in containment zones, including limited operation of bus services, as life started limping back to normalcy. The 25 districts are Coimbatore, Salem, Erode, Tiruppur, Namakkal, Karur, Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Tenkasi, Kanyakumari, Theni, Madurai, Sivaganga, Virudhunagar, Ramanathapuram, Dindigul, Pudukottai, Trichy, Tiruvarur, Thanjavur, Nagapattinam, Dharmapuri, Krishnagiri, Vellore and Nilgiris.
However, no relaxations were announced in 12 districts--Chennai, Kancheepuram, Tiruvallur, Chengalpattu, Villupuram, Cuddalore, Ranipet, Tiruppattur, Kallakurichi, Tiruvannamalai, Ariyalur and Perambalur--where the number of coronavirus positive cases were high, and the curbs and some relaxations already announced in these areas would continue for the next two weeks. Despite spike in the number of cases--6,750 so far--life was quite normal in Chennai as more number of vehicles plied on the road, though autos, taxis, share autos and buses and other public transport services, were off the roads.
With the state government already giving the nod for standalone shops to function without air-conditioning, several shops were opened in T.Nagar Ranganathan Street, housing leading textile chains--considered as the common man's shopping paradise--by strict adherence to lockdown norms. Roadside tea shops, besides those selling household appliances and small jewellery shops too functioned. Though all educational institutions, including schools and colleges continued to remain closed, all banks, central and state government government offices functioned. After a 54-day long hiatus, all state government offices functioned from today with 50 per cent attendance in batches.
While reverting back to six-day week from today, the government said the first batch would work for two days continuously--today and tomorrow--and the second batch would work for the next two days-- Wednesday and Thursday--followed by the first batch on Friday and Saturday. Next week would start with the second batch followed by the first batch in the same order. The government operated Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC) bus services from important destinations for the benefit of the state government employees. Companies and industries outside Chennai and in other parts of the state were allowed to function with limited numbers by compulsorily maintaining social distancing and wearing face masks.
Commercial establishments which have been closed during the first three phase pf lockdown were also allowed to function from today only for maintenance purposes with a minimum number of workers. The government, however, said the ban on visits to tourist spots like Udhagamandalam, Kodaikanal and Yercaud would continue. Mr Palaniswami said all educational institutions, including schools and colleges, theatres, bars, gyms, beach, tourist spots, zoological parks, museums, swimming pools, sports stadia, big auditoriums, conference halls will continue to remain shut till May 31. He also said the ban on public darshan in places of worship and all religious gatherings will continue. He also said all modes of public transport including air and rail services, buses, inter-state bus services, Chennai Metro, taxi, auto, cycle rickshaws, hotels, resorts would not function. Under the MGNREGA scheme, instead of 50 per cent workers, from today 100 per cent workers were allowed to work. (UNI)