My phone buzzed with a message from my local grocer around noon yesterday. "Hi, bad news for us...Unfortunately, from tomorrow all shops have to be shut. Government order. Buy all groceries now," he texted. Our neighbourhood in Noida was among the places totally sealed because it hosts a hotspot or cluster of infected cases. Effectively, we're in a lockdown within a lockdown.
When the UP government first announced that 15 districts were to be sealed, they didn't announce the hotspots. I had stocked up groceries on just the day before but thought of leaving the house to get some more veggies. Just then, my neighbor, a 61-year-old lady, who lives alone, rang my doorbell. She asked me if I could help her get 5 kgs of flour. I asked her to stay in and stepped out. The queues in front of the stores had begun getting longer already by then. People stood in the scorching heat with baskets, bags, umbrellas to buy basic items.
How will we get milk, vegetables? Will medical shops be open? Too many questions and few people to give the right answers. Only after the hotspots were announced much later in the evening, did people get the facts.
The two residential societies that have the maximum number of COVID-19 positive patients in this area can be seen from my balcony. The roads in front of them have been empty since last evening. The society WhatsApp group had multiple questions and WhatsApp forwards on what to do.
There are many aged people in these societies who live alone. My landlady's mother is an octogenarian. Her daughter lives in Singapore and orders groceries and other basic requirements online and they are home-delivered to her. Our society and the ones around us have identified these flats and have allowed an assistant to deliver the bags at their doorstep. All others have to collect it from the main gate. No one other than residents is being allowed entry. Not much has changed within the society since yesterday. The same protocols are being followed as were being done during the 'lockdown'. Since the shops are shut, no one is venturing out. That's the only difference.
As I stepped out this morning, I found chemists and ATMs open. Everything else was shut. Constant police patrolling has been underway since morning. I saw a few delivery bikes. Home delivery of groceries via apps is allowed, so are ambulances and medical staff. But there was no doorstep-type testing being conducted.
(Sohini Guharoy heads social media at NDTV)
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