GUWAHATI: At a time the government is insisting on social distancing vis-à-vis COVID-19 pandemic, large groups of people in many parts of Assam ventured out of their homes on Friday to buy essential items. In doing so, the guidelines on social distancing were hit for a six.
Videos of the huge gatherings, aired by news channels, made Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal and Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma to sit up and take note of. Soon, Chief Secretary Kumar Sanjay Krishna issued a statement banning the operations of all shops, except grocery stores and pharmacies, until further orders.
“All markets will remain closed until further order except grocery and pharmacies. Grocery shops will also provide vegetables, fruits, eggs, ginger, garlic and water. DCs (DMs) will organise distribution of vegetables etc through mobile vans in all areas on alternate days. All meat and fish shops will remain closed till March 31. It will be reviewed on April 1. DCs will fix appropriate time for opening of grocery stores as per local convenience,” the statement said.
The government directed people to follow the advisories on social distancing and warned that violations would attract penal provisions under Section 188 of the Indian Penal Code.
An angry Sonowal told journalists that the way people had come out was really unfortunate.
“I never thought people in different parts of the state will behave like this. We had insisted on following the guidelines on social distancing while buying essential items. People violated them. I am really sad,” he said.
The state government had on Thursday issued a statement stating that pharmacies besides grocery, vegetables, fruit and milk shops would remain open during the lockdown period.
Sonowal said the relaxation was granted on humanitarian ground but that did not mean people would violate the guidelines on social distancing.