CHENNAI: Have we learned any lessons from the Koyambedu cluster that resulted in the biggest viral spikes in the State? If you visited Amma Canteens on Monday, the day curbs were relaxed in the city after the intense lockdown, the answer would be an emphatic no. Forgetting all social distancing norms, hungry citizens made a beeline to the canteens.
Residents of Erukkanchery shared visuals with Express, which showed a large crowd standing close to each other. E L Mathew, a member of a local NGO in Vyasarpadi, who distributes food to the homeless, said that most of the Amma Canteens in Zone 4 (Tondiarpet) are jampacked with at least 50-100 people standing very close to each other. “There are no social distancing markers, nor any staff to monitor the people. Already this zone is very badly affected and thiswould just lead to the spread,’’ he said. This could be another cluster in the making. On April 19, an Amma Canteen in Old Washermenpet, falling under zone 4 Tondiarpet, was temporarily shut after two patrons tested positive. Subsequently, one of them died.
The officials of the Corporation had a tough time to track down the contacts as more than 1,000 people had visited the canteen.Similarly, another canteen in Triplicane was temporarily shut after a worker tested positive. When Express visited the canteens Tondiarpet and Royapuram zone, many were crowded.
‘Patrons sent back’
Due to overcrowding and food getting over as early as 2 pm, police were preventing some patrons from entering the canteens.In a video sent to Express by residents of Madhavaram, a man is seen saying the police prevented him from visiting the canteen. “The outlet in Madhavaram (zone 3) is always full. It is risky,’’ said Surendran R, a local.
Amma Canteens has seen a 30 per cent rise in patronage and since July 1, 4.7 lakh people have visited these canteens daily. Before the intense lockdown, an average of 2 lakh visitors visited daily. Similarly, fish markets in Santhome Loop Road too witnessed overcrowding on Monday. There were quite a few positive cases there earlier. When contacted, Corporation officials said all assistant engineers of the 15 zones were instructed to monitor social distancing and ensure drawing social distancing markers. “Few instances of overcrowding are seen here and there. We will have a look at it,’’ said the official.