Lucknow: All shops and commercial establishments in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency of Varanasi have been shut due to a rapid rise in Covid-19 cases.
Varanasi had fewer number of coronavirus cases as compared to other districts of Uttar Pradesh such as Agra and Lucknow but the number has suddenly spiked in the last three days. The district administration has so far identified 60 positive cases and has now demarcated 24 locations as Covid-19 hotspots.
Of the 60 cases, authorities say 14 are those who had come in contact with a pharmacist who tested positive on 24 April. Local media reports state that the pharmacist had been issued a pass by the administration and had been selling medicines for nearly a month. He had also posted videos on TikTok of him feeding the poor and needy.
There are now fears that there could be a further spurt in cases due to the pharmacist. Authorities have filed an FIR against him and are looking to now trace all those who interacted with him.
They have so far identified two other pharmacists in Sonbhadra and six of their staff members who had come in contact with the Varanasi pharmacist. They are all being tested for the coronavirus infection.
The positive case has led to the shut down of the Saptasagar market, referred to as the biggest trading hub for medicines in the Purvanchal region.
Apart from this, nine police personnel from a single police station have been infected, with two of them reporting positive Thursday. Seven of them reported positive Monday. As a result, a number of police personnel have been quarantined in the district.
District shuts down
The spike in cases has prompted the district administration to announce that from Friday, only milk and medicine stores will be allowed to remain open for an hour every day while vegetable carts will be allowed into the colonies.
The administration has also announced phone numbers for home delivery of ration and other food items. The restrictions apply across the district and not just to the hotspots.
The administration had initially ordered a complete lockdown, but according to Varanasi District Magistrate Kaushal Raj Sharma, milk shops will be open for an hour between 7 am and 8 am. Medicine stores will be allowed to open for an hour from 11 am to 12 noon. All previously authorised banks and government offices will remain open.
While the administration has suspended all passes, it has provided exemptions to those working in petrol pumps, social organisations delivering food packets, government workers, media personnel and those engaged in managing the system.
Hiccups in home delivery
Several residents, however, are complaining about the home delivery system that has been in place since the lockdown and which they will now have to rely on at least until 3 May.
Ujjwal Singh, who lives near the Benaras District Court, alleged that many retailers were not making online deliveries. “On several occasions they do not even pick up phones. The situation is even worse in the areas where there is a mobile network problem,” he said.
Stuti Mishra, a resident of Mahmoorganj locality, said that home delivery is not punctual and that several products are unavailable.
According to local Congress leader Gaurav Kapoor, various problems have cropped up in the system. “Smooth functioning of home delivery system is not even practical due to narrow lanes of Varanasi city. Ration shops should be opened in areas that are not corona hotspots,” he said.
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