Covid or no Covid, the fear factor seems to be evaporating and people are using the progressive relaxation of civic norms to venture out and do the things they missed over the last eight months. Many crippled industries like restaurant chains and airlines have been beneficiaries of the opening up.
Food chains on highways and malls, helped by the festive season, are reporting increasing levels of footfalls, close to the pre-Covid era. The tea café chain Chaayos said it is seeing 75% of its pre-pandemic business restored while McDonald’s is reporting brisk business in its highway and small town outlets. Luxury restaurants, cashing in on families wanting to dine out, are making up for the social distancing constraints by keeping their doors open round the clock.
Airline operations too have picked up and are showing robust numbers. The government last month allowed 60% of the flights to operate and the civil aviation minister said that from a low of 30,000 passengers on May 25 when air traffic was first opened, the number of fliers had increased to 2.52 lakh on November 30. Though airlines are taking precautions, the absence of regular public transport like long-distance trains and buses has forced thousands to take expensive flights crammed in like sardines.
Two important changes have happened in recent days. Despite a second wave of Covid infections in many cities, people are willing to take risks to relieve the monotony of working and staying at home. Second, the desperation over survival is forcing people to drop their guard and venture out.
Despite the opening up, the preventive measures and possibly increasing immunity have forced down fresh caseloads in the country from a high of 1 lakh a day to below 30,000 currently. Mumbai, which was reporting over 200 deaths a day a few months ago, is reporting less than 10 per day.
This is also partly because mass public transport like local trains have not been fully restored, preventing crowding. The acid test will be when normal commuter traffic is back and offices begin to hum again.