MADURAI: At a time when new strains of Covid-19 have been emerging, public apathy towards the safety protocol and the lack of stringent action towards violators draw a worrisome picture.
When TNIE interacted with few among those who roamed around without masks, some were initially intimidated and wore the masks immediately, while others listed out the reasons of their own.
A group of residents at Sowrashtrapuram, who were seen enjoying their evening tea at a crowded tea shop in the locality said, "We don't wear masks as we live in the same neighborhood. When we go elsewhere, we wear them."
J Vanna Nilavan, who was commuting in a share auto that carried more than eight people, said that he forgot to wear the mask.
"Earlier, officials would levy fines on those who did not wear masks or follow the norms. Now, none bothers to ask, so I forget most of the time to carry one," he added.
A group of youngsters who were playing at an open ground in Gomathipuram told Express that Covid would do no harm to them, "as they have enough immunity." They also added, "Covid would be scared of Madurai people."
"It is suffocating to wear the masks all the time," says K Kumar, a 25-year-old saloon shop-owner.
"According to media reports the cases were said to go north post-Deepavali festival. However, there were no such signs as per the government data. The government has also eased the norms and the politicians are now gathering crowds to conduct election campaigns. I don't think there is a necessity to be so panicked now, as everything has been normalised here," he said.
City Health Officer P Kumaragurubaran said TNIE that the civic body has spread awareness based on Information, Education and Communication (IEC) method.
"People in Madurai have knowledge about the pandemic and are aware of the norms but have attitude problems in putting it into practice," he said.
Further, it is highly challenging to impose fines on those at marriage functions or funeral homes. It is also not easy to make people follow the norms at small temples as we do in big temples, he said adding, "Akin to how the commuters carry the helmets and would wear it only when they see the traffic police, many would tuck the masks inside their pockets or hang it down their face."
Corporation Commissioner S Visakan said that the standard operating procedures would be intensified at marriage halls and stringent action on would taken on violators in forthcoming days. He also urged the public to take responsibility and follow the norms.
As per earlier orders, fines to the tune of Rs 200 per individual violators and Rs 2,000 for commercial establishments that violated Covid-19 norms were being levied by the local bodies, flying squads from district administration and police departments. Awareness announcements were also made at the traffic signals.
"The zonal teams of corporation, earlier deployed in collecting fines from violators, are continuing to do it as a routine process now," said the Corporation Chief adding that the civic body has alone collected more than Rs 1 crore fine so far.
District Collector T Anbalagan said, "The government had eased the norms to some extent and we are bound to follow that. Levying fines on all the violators is also impossible now."
In a bid to understand the knowledge, attitude and practice of people against Covid-19, Madurai Municipal Corporation and district administration along with Madurai Institute of Social Sciences conducted a baseline survey in the 100 wards in city limit between June and August.
The study found that creating more awareness and health education campaigns were the need of the hour. Later, the study was called off owing to challenges in mobilising the students and fund crunch.