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People across Tamil Nadu throng shops ahead of intense curbs

People gather at shops from 6 a.m.; COVID-19 norms flouted.

Ahead of the intense lockdown for a week from Monday, huge crowds thronged markets, grocery shops and meat stalls across Tamil Nadu on Sunday.

Even after the government made it clear that shops would operate till 9 p.m., people gathered at shops from as early as 6 a.m. As the hours passed, physical distancing went for a toss.

Crowded markets, long queues in front of grocery outlets and meat stalls, traffic congestion and vendors putting up stalls on roadsides were common in the cities of the western region. In Coimbatore, people lined up at retail outlets from 6 a.m. Vegetable prices sky-rocketed in Coimbatore and Erode. However, the prices dipped in Coimbatore by evening.

People thronged markets and commercial establishments in major towns in the Nilgiris district. In Salem, roads leading to market places were crowded as vendors put up stalls, leading to congestion near the Suramangalam market, the Hasthampatti market and the Anandha Bridge market. People flouted COVID-19 safety norms at almost all places.

In Tiruchi district, people thronged vegetable markets, meat stalls and even clothing stores ahead of the lockdown. Traffic jams occurred on Madurai Road and near the Gandhi Market, even as vendors sold their ware at inflated prices. People thronged clothing stores as the day passed. “We did not expect the clothing stores to open. We needed some clothes for our children…,” a customer said.

Vegetable prices sky-rocketed in Madurai. P.S. Murugan, president of the Central Market Wholesale Vegetable Vendors Association, said one kilogram of tomato went for ₹50 as against ₹10 earlier. “All the vegetables cost at least three times higher,” he said. Mutton stalls at Gomathipuram increased the price of meat from ₹900 a kg to ₹1,200.

Traffic jams on arterial roads, cramped parking lots and crowded shops and markets were a common sight in different areas of Madurai city. “The bustle on East Veli, East Masi and East Marret Streets was similar to what it would be on the eve of Deepavali,” said K. Rahman, a businessman.

In Vellore, health officials set up a vaccination centre and COVID-19 testing centre at the market entrance. Many vendors and members of the public were vaccinated and some of them were tested.

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