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Unlocking the lockdown

by Vasudevan Jayanth
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Places are opening because of the economy. Not because it is safe. Keep that in mind.

Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Keep social distance.

Avoid crowds. Stay safe.

Your family needs you.

The Tamil Nadu government may have been forced to announce major relaxations in lockdown conditions with effect from September 1. It was not an easy decision to take but the Union government gave it very little choice but to follow the Home Ministry circular of last week.

With well over four lakh cases on record and a toll of above 7200, the Chief Minister would have liked to be more conservative. Opening up of public transport seems to be the major step taken, and perhaps a risky one too. Buses have started to operate and the Metro rail in Chennai will start from September 7. Above all, the epass system has been scrapped within the State. But visitors from abroad and from other States will still need it, though on an auto-generate process and the quarantine restrictions. Temples and all places of worship are also open to devotees.

Visitors to the hill stations Kodaikanal and the Nilgiris will still need an epass from the Collectorate.

Is it safe to open up all together? Of course, economic activity needs to be restored fully to get the employees back and also generate revenue for the State — which is in dire straits.

Livelihood issues

Needless to say, there are livelihood issues. Not every employee has a personal transport and sustenance has become a major question. How long can free ration continue? Giving the poor a dole of Rs. 1000’a month could not continue too. The economy has to revive for things to improve, but lives are equally important and more precious too. It becomes a life Vs livelihood debate.

Tomorrow, if things go wrong and there is a spurt in Corona cases, who is to take the blame? Of course, the Opposition will gun for the ruling party. For sure, it will become an election issue. The State government has handled the pandemic fairly well. Perhaps, the major bloomer was the Koyambedu cluster and those coming from the fish markets. It maintains the record for the highest number of tests on a daily basis – doing more than 70,000 tests per day. The record of achieving over 80 per cent cure seems creditable too. Doctors have never been in favour of extending the lockdown but they are appalled at the irresponsible behaviour of most people.

“Unless we ensure physical/social distancing and wear masks we are asking for trouble in public transport,” cautions Dr. Swaminathan, a pulmonologist.

The success or otherwise of this unlocking experience depends entirely on the people. Unless they act responsibly, there may be a crisis on hand.

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