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Distancing At Shops


The Goa government’s experiments to find the best system for maintaining supplies of essentials during the period of lockdown for coronavirus do not seem to be over yet. The helplines for home delivery of groceries, vegetables and medicines promised by the government did not work. Kitchens can be a tricky place: not even the lady of the house can be sure if her kitchen has everything. So, when the helplines did not work, people violated the directives in search of what their kitchens did not have. Many came in conflict with the police.

If the government had managed to make the helplines work satisfactorily, it would not have been forced to allow grocery, milk and vegetable shops to open across the state. Anxieties about where to get their essentials were building among people of course, but to believe that they all wanted all the shops to be thrown open will be to believe that people were not concerned about the spread of coronavirus, a presumption that does serious injustice to them. Most people are deeply afraid of getting infected by the virus, which has extinguished thousands of lives across the world and is threatening to take many more. They are observing social isolation for their own safety. At the same time, when they are faced with non-availability of food items and medicines, they are compelled to go to shops to buy them and jostle to get at the counter before the shop runs out of stock, as it happened in many places in Goa on Friday, defeating the very purpose of the lockdown.

As helplines did not work and courier services were disrupted, perhaps the only option is to keep the shops open. However, there must be a fine balance between the popular caution for not contracting the virus and the popular need for easy availability of essentials. Every shop must mark squares or circles at one-metre intervals in front of it for customers to wait for their turn in. For some days a policeman should be placed near every shop to enforce social distancing.

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