As 5th phase of lockdown begins, Gujarat cities start ‘unlocking’

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Life returned to near normal in many parts of Gujarat, notably in Ahmedabad, the state’s worst coronavirus-hit district, as several restrictions were eased in the fifth phase of the lockdown that began on Monday.

Roads bustled with traffic as people came out in large numbers to visit markets, which are now open till 7pm in all areas except in containment and micro-containment zones.

In Ahmedabad, a limited number of city buses began plying with 50 per cent seating capacity to maintain social distancing, while autorickshaws hit the roads for the first time in ten weeks, though the reduced number of passengers they have been permitted to ferry was a dampener.

“We stayed home for 70 days. We are thankful to the government for allowing us to operate our autorickshaws, but we have, unfortunately, not got any kind of financial support from the government. We are hardly getting any passengers now as we cannot carry people in shuttle system because only a limited number is allowed,” said an autorikshaw driver.

A bus station in Ranip area of Ahmedabad saw people gathering since early morning to catch intra-state transport buses, though the capacity was restricted and those boarding were first checked by conductors holding temperature guns.

The textile market in Surat, among the largest in the country, resumed business after it was sanitised earlier by civic authorities, with shops opening under an odd-even mechanism from 9am to 4pm.

“Work will begin only after transportation starts as a majority of materials go out of the market. We came here to check stock that had been lying unused for such a long time.

The losses due to the lockdown has been very heavy, but we hope things pick up from here,” said a shop owner.

Government offices opened on Monday with full staff strength, while the sizable numbers that came to the Assembly complex in Gandhinagar were allowed to enter only after being screened with thermal guns.

Face masks continued to be mandatory and police as well as civic officials were seen in large numbers to check if people were adhering to norms laid down to contain the novel coronavirus outbreak.

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