Thiruvananthapuram: Seats for customers to wait outside if the shop is crowded. Free gloves provided if you had forgotten to carry yours. People wearing cloth masks given surgical masks. These are the sights from a big textile shop in Thiruvananthapuram city; part of the efforts taken by the merchants to ensure that those out shopping are not affected by COVID-19.
With the COVID-19 protocol strictly implemented, the public has been venturing out fearlessly for their Onam shopping.
The district administration and the merchants had been initially apprehensive about effectively implementing COVID-19 norms during the Onam season, which is the time for brisk business.
With the shops too making arrangements in line with the COVID protocol, the public is also cooperating.
Social distancing norms
The shop owners have to first ensure social distancing to prevent contact transmission. Only people who can be accommodated in accordance with the social distancing norms would be allowed to enter the shop. Seating facilities are also provided for the customers to wait outside until their turn.
Arrangements were also made to prevent the customers from touching the objects at textile and home appliance shops.
Roadside shopping too is in full swing. During the past years, the Corporation had made special arrangements for roadside vendors. Even though the authorities did not make any special arrangements this year, the vendors are not crowding around in one area and are maintaining social distancing.
City dwellers are currently busy with textile shopping. So, the vegetable market is yet to see any huge rush. However, people would flock to the markets in the days running up to Thiruonam to get all the vegetables to prepare the delectable sadya. Vegetables have begun to arrive from other states, including Tamil Nadu. As restrictions have been placed at Chala market, the wayside shops are likely to see more sales.
Why only flowers excluded?
However, merchants have taken objection to the state government's advice, asking people not to procure flowers from outside in the wake of COVID-19.
They questioned the logic of procuring vegetables and grocery items from other states but saying no only to flowers.
After the wedding season, the sale of flowers is the most robust during Onam.
Flowers are brought to the city from various parts of Tamil Nadu. Lorries, transporting flowers, are also disinfected at the border before entering the state.
To prepare big floral carpets (pookalam), lots of flowers are required. And it is not possible to do so using the flowers in the neighbourhood, various club members pointed out.