THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The rise in coronavirus cases have prompted the state government to bring in many restrictions, and Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan on Friday made it clear that more curbs will be imposed from May 4.
Though the government initiative has brought a sense of seriousness among the masses on the threat posed by the pandemic, a section of the public equated CM's words of caution as a hint of an impending lockdown. The result: People have resorted to panic buying and are emptying the shelves thinking that a total shutdown is round the corner.
On Friday, several leading markets in the state witnessed a sizeable crowd that lined up to buy vegetables, groceries and other essential items, larger than those seen ahead of the weekend lockdown. "People are saying there might be an extended lockdown in the coming week. So I am here to buy vegetables and fruits for Ramadan," said Nazeema Beevi, a middle-aged woman, who was waiting outside a shop at Pothencode in Thiruvananthapuram.
It's just not the food items that are flying off the shelves. Medical shops selling rare medicines also witnessed brisk sales. A cancer patient, who was following integrated medicine, said her request was kept pending by her pharmacy because they were burdened with other orders. "Patients from and outside the state have been calling them for the past two days to order medicines. The pharmacy was trying to fulfil those orders and hence is not in a position to entertain more. People are frenetically giving orders out of a belief that there is an imminent lockdown," said the woman from the capital city, who preferred anonymity.
S S Manoj, secretary of the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopana Samithi, said unconfirmed reports of lockdown that circulate in social media drive people crazy and they go on a shopping frenzy "We witnessed a similar shopping spree during the first wave of the pandemic.
Mostly, social media fuels such rumours. Some traders also add fuel to the fire and the result is that people would crowd outside the shops," he said. Manoj said crowding of people outside the shops and them not following the Covid protocols invite trouble for the traders as they have to down the shutters in case Covid spread is reported in their locality. Manoj added that traders are okay with short-term lockdown, provided the government announces financial packages to offset their losses.