As thousands flock to the busy fish market at Kasimedu, physical distancing has been a problem since the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The city police, the Chennai Corporation and Fisheries Department officials on Friday chalked out a plan to rein in the crowd and make it follow personal hygiene and physical distancing.
Corporation Commissioner G. Prakash; A. Arun, Additional Commissioner of Police, North; V. Balakrishnan, Joint Commissioner of Police, North; and Fisheries officials had an interaction with fishermen associations.
Mr. Prakash said they warned the representatives of the associations that officials would seal the fishing harbour if physical distancing norms were violated.
“Zones such as Tondiarpet, Royapuram and Thiru Vi Ka Nagar are registering a dip in positive cases. But we have to be vigilant. We have decided to permit operations in the fishing harbour to help those who have lost their source of livelihood in the past few months. Officials have advised people to adhere to the norms to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
Mr. Arun told The Hindu , “Boats have gone to sea and will be returning soon with the catch. We have discussed arrangements to maintain physical distancing. All areas here have been barricaded duly so that sellers and buyers can operate in an orderly way and maintain physical distancing...”
Fishermen wanted the authorities to change the timing of auction sale from 6 a.m.-noon to 3 a.m.-9 a.m., so that retailers could carry the catch to outlets across the city on time. Since the sale was restricted to wholesalers from the wharf, the associations wanted a certain number of retailers allowed to the wharf areas.
G. Arasu, a boat owner, said, “Wholesalers buy only a certain variety of fish and not all. Hence, we have requested the authorities to permit 50-100 retailers at a time to enter the area.”
K. Kabilan, of Chennai Mechanised Boat Owners’ Association, said, “We have formed a group of volunteers from among the association members to ensure that physical distancing norms are duly followed in the wharf area.”
Patrol vehicles are doing the rounds and several policemen are creating awareness of the need for physical distancing.
K. Bharathi, president of South Indian Fishermen Welfare Association, said, “The police are allowing the sale of fish from outlets like Nochikuppam only till 6 p.m. Most of the office-goers come to the place only after 6 p.m. for buying fish... and move from the place immediately. Considering those aspects, Hence, the police can allow us to sell till 9 p.m.