Bengaluru: HAL market, CMH road shops lose business after alarming COVID-19 messages

Another fake news that was spread far and wide was about a shop in Cambridge Layout.
HAL Market
HAL Market

Top in Town in Cambridge Layout in Bengaluru is a popular grocery store that has been operating in the area for many years now. While business has been dull ever since the lockdown started, the last two days have been terrible in particular. All thanks to a viral message that falsely claims, “Top in Town Cambridge Layout also sealed about half an hour back the owner is tested positive.” (sic)

Abdullah Ismayil, the owner of the store, is baffled as to how the news started. “I have come to know about this fake news. I think this has been done by a rival store owner. On June 15 I had closed the store to do a stock check as I usually do once in six months. I had put a board outside declaring that the same. But despite this, this rumour was spread. This is hurting my business,” he says.

With the number of COVID-19 patients in Bengaluru increasing steadily (though not at an alarming rate), citizens are understandably more concerned about the situation. However, this has also given way to rumours and fake news being circulated on Whatsapp, other instant messaging and social media platforms, impacting individuals and local businesses. 

One such fake news message which has been going viral says, “Breaking HAL MARKET has been sealed because a vegetable vendor and his family have tested positive for the Corona Virus. Please avoid going that way. Also, Krishna Temple Road and CMH Road and in the affected areas since yesterday afternoon.” (sic)

There is no containment zone in HAL Market or in the entire HAL Airport ward, as published by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike in its daily bulletin. Ward corporator Manjunath N speaking with TNM confirmed the same and said the market is open as usual.

In CMH Road too, businesses are open as usual. There is no containment zone in Jeevan Bhima Nagar ward as well. However, there is one containment zone in Krishna Temple Road in Bengaluru which comes in Domlur ward.

NS Ramamohan, president of CMH Road Shops and Establishments' Association, laments that these fake messages have ensured that they lose whatever little business they had gained after the lockdown was lifted. “We are losing business. We have suffered a lot during the lockdown. We are all open for business but customers may be afraid. In reality, they have put up a containment zone in an area surrounding a house on Krishna Temple Road.”

Sunil Agarwal, owner of Karthik Mithai, a sweet shop on CMH Road says business has anyway been slower than usual for weeks, but the viral messages have come as a death blow.

BBMP has been marking areas as containment zones only if they fall in a 100 metre perimeter of an affected independent house. Sometimes these zones are individual houses or a floor above and below where the person with the infection lives. But this has not stopped people from blindly forwarding messages that claim that an entire area has been sealed off.

Another viral fake news message says, “IMP Announcement!! There has been a death due to COVID19 case on Krishna Temple Road. The exact lane is the lane where 'spoonful of sugar' is there. The house is in that lane. Please AVOID: Nilgiris, and other shopping options on Krishna Temple Road and also CMH Road for a few days IF YOU CAN! Stay safe. Bangalore, Ulsoor Area is surrounded by covid 19, It's on our door steps, infected in Ulsoor Bazar, Cambridge layout, Lakshmipuram, Indiranagar. Minimize & Avoid unwanted outings.” (sic)

At present Ulsoor ward has two active patients. And terming the entire area as a no-go zone on that basis is nothing but alarming, say officials. 

Dr Lokesh, BBMP Special Commissioner and COVID-19 surveillance-in-charge, says, “There is no major reason for worry. There were some patients in the CMH Hospital and we had closed it down for two days and tested all necessary contacts. Following that on the third day services resumed as normal. Presently, there are no active cases.” 

Officials add that it is important that people step out only if necessary and should not crowd markets or shops. However, messages targeting individual shops or areas are hurting local businesses, delivering a serious economic blow to them.

(With input from Alithea Stepahnie Mounika)

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