Kumaran Silks, a popular textiles and garments store in Chennai, was sealed by the city's civic body on Tuesday after a video showing a massive crowd gathered inside the multi-storeyed showroom ahead of the festive season but in violation of social distancing rules.
"A shop in T Nagar has been locked and sealed today, since they allowed overcrowding & didn't follow the COVID-19 safety protocols. Other such shops, which don't follow the protocols shall be sealed too. Shop owners & public are requested to strictly follow safety protocols." the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) said in a tweet.
A shop in Tnagar has been #locked and #sealed today, since they allowed overcrowding & didn't follow the COVID-19 safety protocols. Other such shops, which don't follow the protocols shall be sealed too. Shop owners & public are requested to strictly follow safety protocols.#GCCpic.twitter.com/MncKIWxfIG— Greater Chennai Corporation (@chennaicorp) October 20, 2020
The video that led to the showroom being sealed showed hundreds of people with no social distancing being maintained. Several of those inside and outside the showroom were not wearing face masks either.
"These two are recipes for disaster. There are small incidences of non-compliance, particularly by bigger stores and establishments, that is very painful to see. They ought to give or ensure all customers wear a mask. They can't allow 500 or 1,000 customers at a time. They ought to regulate," G Prakash, the GCC Commissioner, told NDTV.
The Tamil Nadu government had earlier released SOPs while allowing standalone shops to reopen as part of a phased unlocking of the economy. These SOPs include regulating entry to prevent overcrowding, use of sanitisers and face masks, and maintaining social distancing.
A senior officer told NDTV that individual chambers or segments of large multi-storeyed showrooms can have a maximum of five customers at a time.
However, many allege the authorities are selective in choosing when to crack down on such cases.
Last week when hundreds of party workers flocked to the ruling AIADMK's headquarters and twice dotted the road in violation of prohibitory orders, the police turned mute spectators.
Nobody was charged.
The DMK and Congress too staged protests violating prohibitory orders and social distancing.
"It is irresponsibility of the highest order. I dread to think of how this would unfold in the days to come," Anita Thomas, a local resident, said.
"Chennai has opened up. These violations take place in every store. Why target only one? Also it's festive season and people do want to shop," Geetha Padmanaban, another resident, pointed out.
Meanwhile, Mr Prakash, the GCC Commissioner, has said: "Political will is one thing that will take all these things to a greater height. We have made it clear for political parties to make it clear for their ground level, its their responsibility."
Chennai's coronavirus cases have been declining in recent weeks but, with the festive season coming up, crowds are expected in shopping hubs and major markets.
Officials have urged people to shop only if absolutely necessary, but it is unclear, at this stage, how effective these appeals are going to be. The city has, so far, reported over 6.9 lakh confirmed cases, of which 1.9 are active and around 10,000 are deaths linked to the virus.