A cellphone video of a traffic jam in which an ambulance is caught, has been doing the rounds in Chennai. It has been alleged that the jam was caused by the convoy of Chief Minister E Palaniswami – an allegation that has been denied by the city police.
The video shows a virtual traffic jam on one side of the road. At the head of it, stand an ambulance. A number of people on two wheelers are also seen waiting, some of them standing close enough to violate lockdown rules.
The Chennai police have denied the allegations, saying the vehicles were stopped for check because of lockdown violations. There was no patient in the ambulance. The Chief Minister, they said, has always instructed them not to stop traffic for his convoy.
A senior officer told NDTV: "The CM has always instructed never to stop traffic even during normal times. So there is no need to stop now. .There were vehicle checks every where to stop violations. In one spot, an ambulance was stopped for a minute and there was no patient in that."
The video has drawn criticism from the opposition DMK, which pointed out that there was no need to stop traffic, since the streets are empty anyway due to the lockdown.
Senior DMK leader Kanimozhi tweeted: "Congratulations CM! A few days ago, you brought entire cities out on to the road because of your lockdown within a lockdown. Now, you bring the city traffic and ambulances to a standstill. Your humility is amazing."
The reference was to the Chief Minister's order tightening the lockdown in five cities, including state capital Chennai, in view of the rising number of coronavirus cases. The four other cities were Coimbatore, Madurai, Tiruppur and Salem.
The four-day shutdown, which started on Sunday, set off a wave of panic buying across the cities. Giving a go-by to social distancing rules, people swarmed across markers to purchase vegetables and essential commodities in view of the four day complete shutdown from Sunday.
Though the Chief Minister ordered extension of timing for shops selling essential commodities, there was no dip in crowds. Important roads, and intersections that are usually deserted, teemed with vehicles and people.
Data from the Union health ministry shows Tamil Nadu so far had 1,885 cases of coronavirus. Of them, 1,020 patients have recovered and 26 have died. The five cities that came under intense lockdown, have a high number of COVID-19 positive cases.