In the middle of a 21-day national lockdown to stop the spread of a deadly pandemic, there was little to show for social distancing at a news conference addressed by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edapaddi K Palaniswami on Friday
Journalists and government officials were seen jostling in a crowd too close to each other outside the coronavirus control room inside the Directorate of Medical and Rural Health Services complex.
The Chief Minister himself was seen surrounded by senior health and police officers with no social distancing. Health Department authorities have not responded to concerns expressed by journalists.
Many blamed the journalists, exempted from the lockdown rules, for disregarding social distancing norms called for amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.
Tamil Nadu has reported 40 COVID-19 cases so far including one death. Across India, more than 800 people have been infected and at least 19 have died.
Announcing the lockdown this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged everyone to follow social distancing.
"Social distancing is not just for you. It is for everyone, even the Prime Minister," PM Modi had said.
Speaking with the Prime Minister over the phone on Friday, Mr Palaniswami briefed him about the action being taken to tackle the contagion.
Hours after the call in which the PM urged strict enforcement of the lockdown, Mr Palaniswami ordered fresh curbs to ensure people stay indoors and stepped up measures to tackle the outbreak by appointing over 500 doctors, besides other healthcare professionals in state-run hospitals.
As per the new orders, effective Sunday, grocery shops, vegetable markets and petrol pumps will remain only from 6 am to 2:30 pm.
Trucks ferrying vegetables and fruits from within and outside Tamil Nadu should offload them between 6 pm and 6 am in the respective wholesale markets.
Food delivery apps like Zomato and Swiggy will be allowed deliver food between 7 am to 9:30 am, between noon and 2:30 pm and from 6 pm to 9 pm.
Pharmacies and restaurants will be open through the day. Eateries can, however, only cater to take away orders and not allow dine-in amenities, the government said.