Thousands of wholesale and retail shops in congested localities like Sowcarpet, Flower Bazaar, Elephant Gate, Seven Wells and Kotwal Chawadi will voluntarily shut down for a week from Sunday to help contain the spread of COVID-19.

Essential supplies, however, will not be hit. At least 15,000 members of the Federation of Madras Merchants and Manufacturers’ Associations (FMMMA) have given their consent for this.

“Divisions 54, 55, 57 and 59 of the Greater Chennai Corporation have witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases. There is a huge floating population in these areas since Sowcarpet is the hub for wholesale business in food grains, textile, electrical items, dry-fruits, steel, plastics, fancy goods. These will close for a week,” FMMMA general secretary Satish Chavan said.

“All residents and shop keepers of the area have been requested to stay indoors and help in breaking the COVID-19 chain. We will review the situation later,” said V.G. Vishal Raj, an office bearer of the traders’ association.

At a meeting on Saturday, FMMMA president Surendar Vyas and vice president Vinod Nair briefed the members of the decision. “This is our second voluntary lockdown. The first was between March 23 and 25,” Mr. Chavan said.

He felt the spread was more from asymptomatic persons and closing down commercial areas would be an effective step. “This voluntary lockdown means closure of business worth a few hundreds crores of rupees. But making money is not the only motive of a trader…this is our way of giving back to the society,” he added.

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