Shops to be open till 3 p.m. today in Chennai and six other districts, Chief Minister says

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Ahead of the four-day complete lockdown, shops will remain open till 3 p.m. on Saturday in Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem and Tiruppur, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami announced on Saturday. A similar extension in timings will be placed in Chengalpattu and Kancheepuram districts too, he added.

Mr. Palaniswami’s announcement came after thousands of people living in these districts thronged markets and grocery stores since Saturday early morning to stock up on household essentials. He also appealed to the people to maintain physical distancing while going to the markets and extend cooperation to the authorities.

In Chennai, the Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority announced that from Sunday to Wednesday, vegetable shops can remain open, but grocery stores cannot. A grocery store that also sells vegetables must remain closed. Also, the Koyambedu wholesale market alone will remain operational, it said

On Saturday morning, roads leading to the Koyambedu wholesale market witnessed heavy traffic as people thronged to buy essential goods.

The market too, saw a heavy rush as customers and retail traders arrived in two-wheelers and three-wheelers to stock up mainly onvegetables. Physical distancing norms went for a toss as people jostled for space to purchase vegetables and some did not wear masks too.

Wholesale traders said the market received 40,000-50,000 people in a few hours till 8 a.m. as passes were not required during the early hours. S. Chandran, Koyambedu Vegetable Wholesale Merchants Association said most of the stock was sold and Saturday’s sales were 30-40% higher than the usual sales.

“Normally, 20% of the daily arrivals would remain after sales. But, on Saturday, most traders sold both the day’s arrivals and the previous day’s stocks. Prices were normal except for a few vegetables, including beans,” he said.

A few merchants have decided to shut shops on Sunday and source arrivals depending on the demand. Though the market may function during the lockdown, only 50% of the shops are expected to be open.

In contrast to the vegetable market, there were less takers for fruits. S. Srinivasan, a fruit wholesaler said the market received 1,300 tonnes of fruits on Saturday, only 40% of its normal load. “We sourced oranges from Maharashtra even though they were costly. One kilo of oranges is being sold for ₹120/kg in the wholesale market. But, we are running the business at a loss. We are planning to ask suppliers to stop sending fresh stock of fruits as there was less demand. ”

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