Customers throng a shop at Bengali Market, New Delhi
Customers throng a shop at Bengali Market, New Delhi | By special arrangement
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New Delhi: The announcement that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address the nation about the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday evening led to rumours that he will announce a national lockdown to check its spread. 

While Prasar Bharti CEO Shashi Shekhar tweeted to clarify that the “information is incorrect”, the rumours seem to have stoked a buying frenzy among panicked residents around the nation. 

From New Delhi to Mumbai and Bengaluru, there were reports of consumers thronging grocery stores, sabzi mandis (vegetable markets) and gas pumps to stock up on essentials such as rice, dal, onions, potatoes and petrol amid fears that a lockdown would soon kick in. 

Also Read: One coronavirus patient infects 1.7 people in India, much lower than in China, Italy: Study

Shoppers throng markets

PM Modi will address the country at 8 pm Thursday where he is expected to speak about the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to combat it. 

As of Thursday afternoon, India had 169 confirmed COVID-19 cases with four fatalities. 

Prior to Modi’s address, WhatsApp and Twitter were flooded with rumours, with some even suggesting that Section 144, which doesn’t allow gathering of more than five people at one place, will be imposed across the country. 

One of the misleading WhatsApp forwards, which suggested Section 144 may be imposed across India
One of the misleading WhatsApp forwards, which suggested Section 144 may be imposed across India


A feverish footfall soon ensued at popular markets, with images shared on social media alternately showing crowded shop counters and empty shelves. There were also reports that Big Basket, an online grocery store, was close to running out of daily essentials. 

An image of purported empty shelves at a Mumbai store that is being shared on social media
An image of purported empty shelves at a Mumbai store that is being shared on social media


The Kendriya Bhandar, or the Central Government Employees Consumer Cooperative Society that sells subsidised goods, on Mahadev Road in New Delhi saw more than 100 panicked customers Thursday. 

Some of them bought as much as 50 kg of atta (wheat), 10 litres of mustard oil, and 20 kg of dal (pulses). A bystander told ThePrint that, owing to the large crowd, customers were asked to enter the shop in batches. The Bengali Market in New Delhi also witnessed a huge crowd (see featured image). 

Grocery stores in Noida witnessed crowds they would usually see on a weekend. At some places, milk and atta were being supplied outside shops because of the heavy demand. 


Two days ago, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) civic agency in Bengaluru had called for the K.R. Market, a shopping hub, to be shut down for sanitisation purposes. This has intensified the customer surge at other markets across the city. 


Kashmir reported its first case of coronavirus Wednesday. This led to panic shopping in the city as residents hoarded daily essentials, such as petrol, food supplies, medicines, and gas cylinders. In special demand were dry food items with a longer shelf life. Amid this run on the shops, the Srinagar administration issued an appeal to stop the hoarding of groceries. 


Apni mandi, vegetable markets where farmers sell their own produce, is a weekly affair held in different localities of Chandigarh on different days of the week. Since yesterday, there’s been a huge rush at these markets.

People bought as much as 10 kg of potatoes and onions each. At the wholesale grocery market in Sector 29, some customers bought up to 10kg of rice and dal each. 

Banks and ATMs were flooded with people following messages from banks requesting customers to opt for netbanking because they were operating on half their staff. 

Amid the panic, the Chandigarh administration held a meeting Thursday to form an anti-hoarding team. A deputy superintendent of police-level officer has been asked to generate awareness about the same and ensure that neither shopkeepers nor buyers are hoarding. Soon after formation, the team was frequenting neighbourhoods to create awareness on how shops will be open despite the pandemic. 


All the main shopping spots in the city, including New Market, Sealdah Market and Bhawanipore Markets saw long queues as people came out to stock up on groceries and vegetables. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is expected to convene a high-level meeting later Thursday to take stock of the situation. 

Also Read: By failing to scale up testing coronavirus, India may have lost crucial time


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  1. Section 144 has been implemented in many states across India. Please update this article, it has been causing some misunderstandings.

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