Deserted streets, empty buses, shops without any customers and cancellation of events have taken a heavy toll of retail trade in different parts Kerala, particularly the districts with escalated threat. The coronavirus threat his hit God's Own Country quite badly.
Wayside vendors and petty traders are the worst-hit, with people reusing to buy anything. The problem is particularly bad in parks, beaches and other public entertainment sites, which generally get busy over the weekend, but these places wear a deserted look.
The bustling Kozhikode beach, according to local traders, presents a picture similar to the 2004 tsunami.
Private buses plying on various routes have either reduced or completely stopped their services as there are hardly any passengers. Private carriage operators and caterers, who were supposed to have a busy season ahead of the Lent period leading up to Easter, have been forced to return advance payments as wedding receptions have been truncated or cancelled.
Several daily wage workers depending on the trade suddenly find themselves without their means of livelihood. Being in a totally unorganised sector, they enjoy no benefits or facilities to compensate for their loss of wage.
The Kerala society is known to be quite fussy when it comes to health issues and people are refusing to leave their homes for fear of contracting the disease. The coronavirus attack has even created a tendency of social boycott of those who are under isolation. This partly explains why several people are showing reluctance to subject themselves for screening and the recommended protocol.
Instances have been reported of people trying to dodge the system. A virus-affected British tourist who was under isolation at a Munnar hotel managed to give the slip to the screening mechanism at the Kochi airport and board a Dubai-bound Emirates flight before he was offloaded along with the rest of the passengers minutes before the plane was to take off. All the passengers were subjected to fresh screening.
As the scare spread to new districts like Thiruvananthapuram in the wake of reports that patients who later tested positive to the disease had travelled to various places and came into contact with a large number of people, people were seen to be over-reacting to the scare.
A warning by the district collector to people to remain confined to home as far as possible as the district administration braced up to fight the virus and track down the secondary contacts did not help ease tension. In fact, the official has been pulled up by the chief minister for creating unnecessary scare among the public.
With more cases of secondary contacts remaining untraced, the state government has declared COVID-19 as a contagious disease, which will give health officials the power to take strict action against those who refuse to follow the guidelines.
The rules empower the officials to order custody of suspected patients and take action against the hospitals or clinics treating such cases. They can also issue orders prohibiting the assembly of 50 or more people and take such steps as may be required to prevent suspected persons getting into contact with others.
Local bodies have been instructed to compile a list of all those who are coming from virus-hit areas and those coming into contact with such people. Steps are also being taken to prepare an inventory of provision items and vegetables so that any scarcity can be avoided.