The number of persons, who tested positive for Covid, crossed the 5,000-mark on Thursday with 580 fresh cases including 316 in Chennai, the largest coronavirus hub in the state. The corona tally stood at 5,409, while the active patient count was 3,822 following the discharge of the remaining persons. Two patients, both women, died and health authorities attributed “comorbidities” for the same.
“A large number of today’s cases are linked to Koyambedu market,” officials said referring to the state’s largest wholesale vegetable and fruits market (since closed) in Chennai which sparked a large cluster for 10 days.
However, what people and officials were worried about was not about the current numbers. They are apprehensive that the numbers could go up if a “fresh cluster” emerges from the liquor outlets that were reopened across the state — except in Chennai — on Thursday after 43 days of closure following the coronavirus lockdown. The liquor shops are owned and run by the Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC).
Videos and photos across many districts showed hundreds of people had crowded near the TASMAC outlets most without masks and adequate physical distancing oblivious of the contagious nature of Covid spread.
Though the government had mandated a six-foot distance between two customers and some district authorities had put up heavy barricading to ensure physical distancing, on the D-day everything was largely ignored with people standing in close proximity of each other in queues lasting even beyond a kilometre. At many outlets people were seen jostling with each other to buy liquor though all of them had turned up with Aadhaar cards to stock up on bottles.
Meanwhile, the opposition leaders led by DMK chief MK Stalin staged black flag protests against the opening of liquor outlets and to “condiment the govt’s failure to curb the virus’s spread”. At many places, the public especially women and children protested against the reopening of liquor shops.