Social distancing goes haywire as Govt relaxes lockdown
IMPHAL, 11th Apr: Social distancing norms for combating COVID-19 pandemic as suggested by leading health institutes and enforced by the government went haywire on Saturday as the government snapped from its own intensified lockdown protocols ordered few days back and allowed open sale of essential commodities in view of Easter Sunday and Cheiraoba festivals.
A series of official orders issued by the government on Friday allowed opening of shops and markets with the exception of the three women’s market complexes, and also petrol pumps for general public in relation with the two religious events. The orders issued strong instructions for following social distancing norms while coming out to buy essential commodities and asked to come out only one person from a family for the purpose.
Though the order seems pretty impressive, enforcing the guidelines was an impossible task, especially when the public are having a breather from a 20-day lockdown. Police were unable to control the huge wave of crowds who came to the market to buy groceries for consumption during the inevitable lockdown that will come once the 21-day lockdown concludes. Mention may be made that people of the state are under lockdown since March 22, three days ahead of the nationwide lockdown announced by the central government. Even before that there was a statewide general strike called by a UG group on March 21, which makes the lockdown period longer than the rest of the country.
Despite the strong instructions, major roads in the state experienced traffic jams since early morning while the Imphal market was heavily crowded where nobody seemed to care about the possibility of COVID-19 transmission. Even though a late order issued by special secretary (home) on Friday informed that fuel outlets will be opened only for essential services, an earlier order regarding open sale to the public got the better of the public’s anticipation and long queues were seen in front of petrol pumps. Similar scenes also unfolded in many district headquarters in spite of futile efforts from the law enforcing agencies, who used loudspeakers and made appeal to the public to follow social distancing norms.
Meanwhile, the relaxation made by the government has drawn sharp reactions from different corners. Patsoi MLA Ak Mirabai said that people of the state have been enduring the lockdown with the hope of preventing outbreak of the viral infection in the state. Saturday’s relaxation is highly questionable and there is no more meaning to continue the lockdown further. Besides, it is condemnable that the government used brute force to control the crowd in some places, she said while demanding an explanation from the government.
Indian Red Cross Society Manipur Chapter chairman Dr Y Mohen said that people in Imphal area depend on vegetables and crops brought from rural areas. Only if the government allowed at least two to three hours a week for the public to buy essential commodities the condition could be better. What happened on Saturday was a human crisis and it has rendered meaningless all the preventive measures taken up so far, he said, while suggesting some relaxation for every two to three days with strict guidelines to prevent similar incidents in future.
Blaming the Government for making all previous containment efforts go waste, MPCC member Dr S Manaoton has asserted that the relaxation of lockdown/curfew on Saturday for public to buy essential items in connection with Cheiraoba and Easter Sunday has sabotaged all efforts taken up by the Government so far to contain the spread of the disease.
Dr S Manaoton stated this during distribution of food items to people of all 47 polling stations of Naoriya Pakhanglakpa by Naoriya Pakhanglakpa COVID-19 Relief Committee through local clubs, organisations and meira paibi. The distribution started from April 3.
On Sunday, relief items were provided to residents of 14 polling stations including Kwakeithel Laishram Leikai, Mongshangei, Konjeng Leikai, Malom and Heirangoithong.
Dr Manaoton said that Coronavirus should be taken as a serious threat. So, it was unfortunate public failed to maintain the guidelines such as public distancing during the relaxation of lockdown and curfew for few hours on Saturday. This has made all the containment efforts made by the government meaningless.
He also condemned the racist attacks on Northeast people in other parts of the country in light of the outbreak of COVID-19 and urged the public to remain united in combating the pandemic leaving behind narrow outlook of caste,