Of the several unconventional and controversial decisions taken by the Tamil Nadu government to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the recent past, the decision to close meat and fish shops during the most recent lockdown i.e. for 12 days while allowing supermarkets, vegetable, and fruit vendors to operate, seems to defy logic.
And even if one were to believe in the civic body’s claim that the coronavirus spread is greater in meat and fish stalls or markets, how does it justify the ban on online vendors of meat as well as other high-end meat retailers and fish outlets where better hygiene and social distancing is followed than most regular supermarket chains in the city?
In a state where more than 97 % of the population eats non-vegetarian food, according to the Sample Registration System Baseline Survey 2014, the civic body’s decision does not appear to have factored in the dietary habits of the majority. It also does not seem to have a precedent for this decision, as the Koyambedu Wholesale Vegetable and Fruit market remains one of the largest COVID-19 clusters in the state. This vegetable market, an integral part of south India’s food supply chain, was allowed to function during the last 40 days of lockdown, which resulted in over 1,500 positive cases in the state.
At a time when the public needs wholesome nutritional food with a significant amount of protein, vitamins, minerals, fibre, and antioxidants to fight the COVID-19 virus, according to WHO recommendations, cutting down a vital source of protein for a vast majority of the population may not be helpful. A glance at quarantine diets across the world show that most countries recommended a balanced diet that includes animal protein, fruit, vegetables, and dairy. Since the state government often looks to western countries for best practices in several areas, it may not be a bad idea to factor in a more global outlook towards dietary intake, which would go a long way in keeping the people of the state healthy, not to mention motivated during the extended lockdown.