Chennai's super-spreader market has partially reopened after four months amid the coronavirus crisis. Some 300 food grain wholesale shops have been allowed to reopen in the city's Koyambedu market.
At one of the shops, U Lakshmi, a packer, is back at work. With no salary for four months, she had to pledge her gold for Rs 20,000 to take care of her two children and her mason husband, who too had lost his job during the lockdown.
"What can we do? I pledged my gold for Rs 20,000 and managed for six months. We have to redeem it if I get job," Ms Lakshmi said.
A few shops away, R Athipan, who runs Balaji Nuts and Spices, says he had lost Rs 25 lakh worth of perishable goods as shops were suddenly ordered to be shut.
However, traders like him have a new challenge to fix as e-commerce platforms have taken away many of their customers. Many like him say are upgrading to e-commerce in tune with the changing scenario. "Do we have a choice? This is the only way. Traders here have lost crores," Mr Athipan said.
Besides thermal scanning, hand-sanitising and social distancing, there's a ban on two-wheelers inside the market. Officials will also fine violators. The working hours have been reduced too.
Muthu Kumar, a shopkeeper who came to buy food grain for his shop, says, "I feel safe. Enough precautions are being taken and there's not much crowd here."
The grocery market where more than 3,000 got infected will re-open in phases from September 28. One lakh people used to visit the market everyday before the pandemic.
Indrakumar, who owns a store dealing with pasta and other items including imported food, added, "This market was newly constructed, so there is a lot of space. We are taking adequate precautions. People can absolutely be sure of safety."
Though the first case of COVID-19 was reported in March-end, many had earlier criticised the state government of taking action only after the market turned into a super-spreader.
With Chennai still reporting 1,000 cases everyday, there is fear that this market could yet again lead to a spike. The government is not taking chances. Pressure is also mounting on the market to ensure compliance with safety guidelines.