Covid rules are being broken in many showrooms in Chennai where more than 50 per cent shoppers are being allowed to enter. NDTV captured many textile and jewellery stores at Chennai's commercial hub T Nagar on Wednesday buzzing with customers, occupying major shopping floorspace, throwing physical distancing norms to the wind.
In one store, shoppers rubbed against each other and jostled for space as salespersons displayed scores of dress materials. In another showroom, as textile counters for silk dresses overflowed, many sat on chairs with no physical distancing in the middle of the store.
Most of the stores did not have markings for customers to wait as instructed by the government. The few who had them, too, did not enforce the rule and let customers sit under their porticos without social distancing.
Shivangi Bandal, a young woman who came to shop with her mother, says she is scared. "Many still don't wear masks. They do whatever they want inside showrooms. I am venturing out after one year. It is scary. Only if its unavoidable we should come out," she says.
Although the state government allowed reopening of large showrooms at 50 per cent capacity, many store owners say no such maximum capacity was fixed. A senior official of a popular mall who requested anonymity said, "The 50 per cent capacity guideline is ambiguous when we don't have a base".
Another shopkeeper said, "T Nagar is dotted with showrooms. Customers don't like being made to wait outside. If we insist, they will go to the next shop and it would be our loss."
It's a shopping festival at Ranganathan Street, a popular shopping stretch in the area as thousands flock the place throughout the day. Police are deployed, but shoppers and vendors move around without masks and social distancing - every ingredient needed to turn the area into a Covid hotspot.
A vendor who sells corn on a busy pavement says, "We control only as much we can. Many customers also leave without buying when we insist on Covid norms."
Chennai's daily case count has dipped from 6,500 to just around 150. The Chennai Corporation says it is cracking down on commercial establishments. It has charged over 6,000 establishments and collected Rs 3.22 crore in fines.
The new DMK government in Tamil Nadu is attempting to strike a balance between life and livelihood after weeks of nightmare when daily cases crossed 36,000. But Chennaites appear to be taking it lightly. There is worry that the city may not escape a third wave unless there is a change in public behaviour.