Minutes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a country-wide lockdown owing to the COVID-19 outbreak, people thronged grocery stores and vegetable shops in Delhi-NCR in fear that they will not be allowed to step out of their homes for the next 21 days.
Jitesh Jain (48), a resident of Vasundhara Enclave, said that he had not stocked up the previous three days thinking stores will remain open. “After the PM’s speech, there was panic in my house. We get milk from an online delivery service but our order was cancelled. I realised we were almost out of milk and there were no vegetables either. I decided to get as many things as I could so that even if there are issues later, we can get by,” he said.
The Prime Minister later said on Twitter that essential services, which include grocery stores and vegetable shops, will be operational.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also tweeted to reassure people of the same: “The 21-day lockdown announced by the Prime Minister is a very important step. I assure the people of Delhi that for the next three weeks, there will be no shortage in the supply of essential items. At this difficult time, your needs will be taken care of.”
A grocery store owner in Jangpura Extension said that people had started lining up outside his store around 8.45 pm.
“We were letting in only two people at a time to limit exposure but that meant a long line started to grow outside our doors. People are mostly stocking up on basics such as rice, flour, oil, sugar, powdered milk. Many are also bulk buying instant noodles and precooked food,” said Chetan Vaashisht, who runs the Siddhivinayak store in the area.
Across Noida, most grocery stores remained closed through the day. The few that remained open shut shop by 10.30 pm. “Supply has mostly been erratic. Although people have been trying to buy in bulk, we have tried our best to ration food commodities evenly among customers,” said Reenu (62), owner of a store in Sector 27, as police maintained a tight vigil on people gathered at the shop.
One of the buyers at the shop, Manek (42), was worried about her two children at home. While putting 15 packets of Maggi in a bag, she said, “Bread and milk powder aren’t available anywhere. I finally bought a packet of bread at another shop, which cost Rs 60 (the original price is Rs 38).”
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