Chennai lockdown reimposed amid flurry of new coronavirus cases

Authorities in the Tamil Nadu state capital Chennai are imposing a new 12-day strict lockdown amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the region. Previously, the government had eased lockdown restrictions and allowed trains to operate despite being overcrowded.

Chennai lockdown reimposed

Authorities in the Tamil Nadu state capital Chennai are imposing a new 12-day strict lockdown amid a resurgence in coronavirus cases in the region. The new measures will begin from June 19.

Chennai city and three neighboring districts will reimpose lockdown measures for 12 days including two full days of complete lockdown.

Chennai lockdown reimposed to curb coronavirus infections

“Considering the spread of the virus and based on the recommendation of medical and health experts, an intense lockdown will be in force from 00.00hours of June 19 and midnight of June 30,” chief minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said in a statement Monday.

The local government will provide Rs 1,000 ($13.15) cash support for all residents dependent on ration cards as well as other unspecified relief to help those struggling during the lockdowns.

All state and central government offices will function at 33 percent capacity while travel will be permitted only in the event of medical emergencies. Those living within containment zones will be exempted from work for the duration.

Meanwhile, shops providing essential groceries will be permitted to remain open for limited hours while restaurants will be permitted to provide takeaway and delivery services.

As of Sunday, Tamil Nadu had a reported 44,661 Covid-19 cases, 31,896 of which were recorded in Chennai. The state has recorded some 435 deaths, however, many have claimed the figures have been underreported and the figure is expected to rise.

India eased lockdown by reopening train stations

In the beginning of June, India partially restored train services.

India’s ministry of home affairs issued specific guidelines for the smooth operation of train services. They say that all passengers will have to be screened, social distancing must be followed at the station and in trains and only passengers who have confirmed tickets will be allowed to travel.

Read more: India reopens train stations: crowds gather & make social distancing impossible

But some stations reported chaotic scenes as officials struggled to enforce these guidelines. BBC Telugu reported that people were standing much too close to each other at Secunderabad railway station in the southern Telangana state.

“Railway staff and police didn’t allow passengers to go inside the station until at least one hour before the scheduled departure, citing physical distancing measures. This led to some chaos outside the railway station as a large number of passengers had gathered and there was no physical distance maintained. Police later arrived and organised the queues,” The BBC’s Sharath Behara says.

Allowing train stations to function despite overcrowding may have led to many more infections. Thus, the decision to reimpose lockdown in Chennai is definitely a welcome one, as it will reduce the amount of social interaction between people.

Indian hospitals running out of beds

More than 1,200 have died from the virus in the Indian capital and more than 1,000 new cases are being reported each day.

Mortuaries are overflowing with bodies and cemeteries and crematorium staff say they cannot keep up with the backlog of victims. Some local Delhi councils say the real death toll is twice the number given by the regional government.

Read more: Hospital beds in Delhi scarce, fuelling coronavirus fears

Indian media has been full of tragic stories of people dying after being turned away by hospitals.

One pregnant woman died as she was being shuttled between hospitals. A 78-year-old man petitioned the Delhi High Court for a ventilator bed but died before the matter could be taken up.

The city government has estimated that it could need 80,000 beds by the end of July, and warned hotels and wedding venues that they are likely to be turned into hospitals.

Currently government hospitals have 8,505 designated pandemic beds while private hospitals have 1,441.

But families say they are being forced to spend a small fortune for the few beds that are available.

Suman Gulati, whose father is a coronavirus patient, said she was asked for one million rupees ($13,200) by a private hospital for a bed.

“Once I paid the money getting a bed was not a problem. But arranging such a huge amount of money at such a critical time was,” she said.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has accused private hospitals of lying about available beds and promised tough action if they were found extorting money.

On Sunday, Home Minister Amit Shah said 500 of some 20,000 train coaches reserved as coronavirus wards would be “immediately” allocated to the state by the national government, adding some 8,000 beds.

Coronavirus lockdown impact on economy

Small businesses in India are also suffering.

According to India’s retail association, sales of non-essential items – such as clothes, electronics, furniture – fell by 80% in May. Even sales of essential goods – such as groceries and medicines – dipped by 40%.

Read more: Coronavirus impact on Indian economy: small businesses suffering the most

At least 20% of neighbourhood mobile shops that sell smartphones may never reopen again, says Arvinder Khurana, president of India’s mobile retailers association.

RT with additional input by GVS News Desk

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