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Vol. XXX No. 10, September 16-30, 2020

Chennai under ‘Unlock 4’ – what now?

The Editor

The question that is uppermost in the minds of most residents of the city is whether there is any lockdown at all in place. Yes, those with school and college-going children do know that educational institutions are still out of bounds for physical attendance. The entertainment industry is still under lockdown, at least that part of it that involves screening or performing to a live audience. But that is about it. For the rest, it is life as usual, as it was before March 2020. With one difference – the threat of Covid is forever hanging overhead, rather like the proverbial sword of Damocles.

There are many who feel that nothing much was achieved by the lockdown anyway. There are others who wonder as to why we went into a lockdown when numbers were low and why we are opening up now, when the figures for infected cases remains at a steady high. There are however no answers. The lockdown was necessary for the Government and those in the health sector to prepare for a sharp rise in statistics. We are told that this has been achieved.

This is not believed by several but at this stage, it is better to go with an element of trust. There is nothing achieved by negative thinking and being suspicious.

Was the hand of the Government, Central and State, forced into opening up? Most certainly – by the demands of the economy. As a city we operate on a dynamic model – we can function only if everything works. Metropolises such as ours were not designed for shutdowns. There are many who depend on a daily wage and they have already been pushed to desperation and more. Sadly, these are also the very same people who are most likely to contract this dreaded disease. Preaching social or physical distancing to them is a cruel joke. They do not live and work in environments where such a luxury is possible.

At the other end of the spectrum, the State too needs its daily wages, by way of taxation revenue. It has its running costs that have to be met. And for this it needs the city to function.

As of now, all the services and places that experience public congregation have opened up – transport systems, malls, places of worship and open recreational spaces. The first unlocked Sunday, September 6, saw people thronging the last named. A day earlier, a prominent mall in the city had to close down within hours of opening as it could not manage the influx of people. The people cannot be blamed – for how long could they remain cooped up at home? There is a limit to being entertained by the electronic medium.

All of this is understandable. But what is not is lack of discipline among people. It has been shown that the wearing of masks is probably the least expensive and most effective way of keeping the virus at bay. And yet, most residents of Chennai do not appear to appreciate this. You only need to see the number of bare faces, others with masks hanging around necks or dangling from an ear or nestling in the crook of an elbow. Why is this simplest of rules not followed? The excuses are many and the worst of all is the quoting of some unknown study that says masks are useless in the face of the virus. Are Chennai people so undisciplined that even this basic hygiene requirement is beyond them? Sadly, it would appear to be so.

And so, if the numbers spike, we have only ourselves to blame.

Covid is a merciless virus that respects none.

As of now there is no vaccine for it. But it can be kept at bay by our taking to wearing of masks and washing of hands with soap. Let us resolve to do this from today.

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