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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

West Bengal: After PM’s speech, spree of panic buying

However, before the PM’s announcement, the West Bengal government on Tuesday had already extended the ongoing lockdown to the entire state till March 31 to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Written by Santanu Chowdhury | Kolkata |
March 25, 2020 3:14:20 pm
A row of shops shut down at College Street area, in Kolkata on Tuesday. (Express photo: Partha Paul)

As soon as Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a nationwide lockdown for 21 days to fight COVID-19, people rushed to the markets to stock up groceries defying the restrictions that had already been imposed by the state government from March 23 to 27.

However, before the PM’s announcement, the West Bengal government on Tuesday had already extended the ongoing lockdown to the entire state till March 31 to contain the spread of coronavirus.

“We are standing on the threshold of an exceptionally unnatural situation. After assessing the situation, we have decided to extend the complete safety regulation to the entire state starting 5 pm today till March 31,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said at a press conference at Nabanna on Tuesday.

At press conference, Banerjee also urged the people to respect the lockdown.

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She said, “I request people with folded hands to maintain distance between each other. Those who are going to markets, ration or medical stores, please keep a distance. This also applies for those visiting the banks.”

The chief minister also urged people not crowd shops selling essential commodities.

“Make sure you are standing in a safe distance from another person. Follow precautionary measures, cover your faces, maintain hygiene. I also request you not to play cricket on empty roads — the virus will spread,” she said.

Banerjee also urged those who have come back home in West Bengal from other states and abroad to follow strict quarantinne at home for 14 days.

However, with the new lockdown order, city residents became alarmed and thronged the markets.

At New Alipore market in South Kolkata, there was a maddening rush to hoard as many items as possible. With the help of their drivers, people carried sacksful of items to their cars. Arms holding Rs 500 notes stretched towards vegetable and fruit sellers caught them by surprise. Shops selling chicken, which were closed for the day, were forced open, while crates of eggs also disappeared from the shelves soon.

The Indian Express visited New Alipore Market shortly after the PM’s address to the nation and witnessed customers on a panic buying-spree.

“We want to buy as many things as possible as I have too many mouths to feed at home. Twenty-one days is a long time and there is no assurance on the supply of grocery items to the markets,” said a man in his forties who along with his wife and drivers loaded their car with groceries.

Here and there people sporting masks jostled with each other to get their hands on vegetables. The standard measure to keep distance from each other was all forgotten. People violated the statewide lockdown to prepare for the nationwide restriction.

“We are very scared. We have never faced a situation like this before. There has to be enough food in house for 21 days,” said a homemaker.

However, all were not so lucky. As the news of panic buying spread, officials from the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC), which runs the city markets, visited the New Alipore Market and asked sellers to close their shops. They even urged people to come later. When such words failed to stop the rush, lights were switched off to force people out of the market.

Earlier in the day, empty roads and deserted public places were seen as the lockdown entered the second day on Tuesday.Private vehicles were off the roads while all business establishments, barring those dealing with essential commodities were shut. Major railway stations, bus terminals and airports were deserted. Only a few police vehicles and those associated with emergency services were seen on the roads. In some places, people were seen venturing out of their homes, prompting police to force them to return. Policemen even used batons to force them to go their houses.

Meanwhile, the Kolkata Police on Tuesday arrested over 1,000 people for violating the lockdown in the last 24 hours. The lockdown or the total safety restrictions in Kolkata and most of the places in the state started from 5 pm on Monday.

According to police, in total 1,003 people have been booked under section 188 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) that pertains to disobedience to order duly promulgated by a public servant.

“Figure of arrest for deliberate violation of ‘Total Safety Restrictions’ in between 17:00hrs on 23.03.2020 and 17:00hrs on 24.03.2020. Total- 1003,” read a message from Kolkata Police.

As many as 271 from south division, 198 and 118 from south suburban and central divisions respectively, were arrested.

In the north and the south west divisions, 99 each were arrested for flouting the rules, while 97 more were picked up from eastern suburban division. Altogether 55 people were nabbed from the port division.

During naka-checking and patrolling, police picked up another 58 people from the southeast division and eight have been arrested from the east division.

Here’s a quick Coronavirus guide from Express Explained to keep you updated: Are smokers at high risk form coronavirus? | Can Vitamin-C prevent or cure coronavirus infection? | What exactly is community spread of coronavirus? | How long can the Covid-19 virus survive on a surface? | Amid the lockdown, what is allowed, what is prohibited?

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