By Sanu V. George
Thiruvananthapuram, March 19 (IANS) With 24 positive COVID-19 cases reported and over 26,000 people in isolation either at home or in hospital, the otherwise happy-go-lucky Kerala population has gone into a shell.
Across the state, the otherwise bustling bus and railway stations, markets, shops, hotels, malls and small time eateries, things are no different as it’s an uneasy lull everywhere.
While the Kerala government last week came out with advisories to close down all educational institutions, various professional bodies — dentists and architecture have now followed suit and have asked their members to down their shutters, for the time being till March 31.
“Where have all the crowds gone,” asked a juice vendor in the state capital city.
“I was getting ready for the bumper summer months. I got ready with a few new juice varieties to be tested for the thirsty days ahead. But things have all gone haywire, as am not even able to sell 50 per cent of what I was selling last week. As of now, things are looking bad, do not know what would it be like, next week,” said the juice vendor.
Malappuram district appears to have taken a quick beating after the Muslim dominated district recorded its first coronavirus positive case on Monday and then came the advisory that all those who have returned from Saudi Arabia to perform Umrah pilgrimage, have to report to the health authorities.
“Everything seems to have happened so fast. In a matter of two days things have gone bad. We are the worst affected as private buses is not being frequented by people. If things remain like this, most of the private buses will have no other option, but to go off the roads,” said a bus driver at the Malappuram bus stand.
Things are no different in the central district of Kottayam, which has so far recorded two positive cases after the state in its second round of COVID-19 attack, three who hail from Ranni in Pathanamthitta district came from Italy and turned to be the carriers.
“Ever since the two cases at Kottayam surfaced and news spread that they were close relatives of those at Ranni, people were so sceptical that practically many in Kottayam at times used to run away by the sight of a bus with a board Ranni. Today, the otherwise bustling busy Sashtri road is practically deserted,” said a Kottayam resident.
Likewise in Kozhikode railway station road more than 50 auto rickshaws are parked, which was a very rare sight earlier, but since the past week, this is the sight.
“This is a place where in normal days, not more than five autos would be there and see now hardly anyone uses it, as there are few who arrive at the station and the bus stands. Most of us return by noon, as there is no point being here,” said a peeved auto driver.
In the state capital city, at a super luxury seaside resort at Kovalam, of the 153 rooms, guests are there in just two.
“Things are bad as about 200 staff members have been asked to go on leave as there are no guests. Do not know what the future is,” said an anxious employee.
Another section, which has been badly affected, are the way side eateries that open after sunset and provide succour to students and those who have to operate on a shoestring budget.
“My sales have dropped to a mere Rs 1,000 and we do not know how we are going to survive, as I have three employees to look after and my family,” said a way side eatery owner in Alappuzha.
The only saving grace now is that with Kerala government claiming to be fully geared to tackle the larger spread of COVID-19, things will not go from bad to worse as the state gets ready to face the third phase of the outbreak.