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Vol. XXX No. 10, September 16-30, 2020
With the lockdown gradually lifting in Chennai, it remains to be seen how the city will handle free public movement even as it continues to battle the pandemic. A layman’s analysis of data published by the Tamil Nadu government seems to give hope.
For instance, the city’s positivity rate, which had hit a high of 10.7 per cent on August 22nd, came down to 7.8 per cent on September 5th. Additionally, the number of persons undergoing treatment (including home treatment) was seen to dip to 11,029 on September 8th compared to 11,734 on August 8th.
It’s admittedly a small improvement and a deeper trend analysis will probably give a more accurate picture; however, an optimistic person may consider this a step in the right direction. The bigger concern lies in ensuring that the absence of the lockdown doesn’t throw caution to the wind as public spaces reopen and services resume. City authorities must take the necessary steps to ensure that preventive measures are upheld by the public uncompromisingly.
Their campaign to contain the pandemic continues – fever camps are being conducted across the city and the GCC will reportedly continue its strategy of aggressive testing and close monitoring of the home quarantined.
For its part, CMRL is also taking multiple steps in this regard as it cautiously resumes operations this month after a 5-month hiatus.
The blue line, which operates between the Airport metro station and the Washermanpet metro station, began running on September 7th while the green line, which runs between the St. Thomas Mount station and Puratchi Thalaivar Dr. M.G. Ramachandran central metro station commenced operations on September 9th. Of course, service resumption comes with a few changes to accommodate the safety and convenience of passengers.
Trains will run from 7.00 a.m. – 9.00 p.m. in response to requests from IT professionals and office goers. The stations are equipped with hand sanitizers and thermal scanning facilities at the entry to identify affected passengers; those showing symptoms of the virus or recording a high temperature will not be allowed entry. The usage of face masks has also been made mandatory. Additionally, CMRL has implemented various measures to establish social distancing between passengers. Travellers are asked to maintain the recommended six feet distance between each other and the usage of lifts has been restricted to senior citizens and the disabled. Alternate train seats are earmarked with an ‘X’ to remind passengers not to sit too close to each other. Further, the train stoppage time has been increased from 20 seconds to 50 seconds, to help passengers board or alight from the train while observing safe social distancing.
Chennai Metro has also launched a couple of new initiatives to render contactless services to its passengers, such as a travel card reader machine. These are available at each station so that travellers need not form queues in front of ticket counters or vending machines. CMRL has also introduced contactless QR ticketing, where passengers can book tickets and buy passes of their choice on the CMRL mobile app through QR codes. Travellers with smart cards can top up balance on the CMRL mobile app or website, as well as view additional details like smart card usage balance, available trips, top-up and travel history etc.
While the authorities take the necessary steps to ensure safety after the lockdown, one hopes that citizens will take cognizance of the fact that we are still battling a pandemic. A worrisome trend is that public usage of masks and safety measures like social distancing has been dipping. With public transport services back on track, CMRL’s measures are the need of the hour; one hopes that it is enforced strictly among passengers.