Vegtable trade moved to new places
Chennai Corp enlarges efforts to curb spread
Chennai , May 5:
Koyambedu market for vegetables, fruits and flowers, one of the largest in the country that used to teem with thousands of people every day here, has emerged as the latest hotspot for COVID-19 cases.
Tamil Nadu reported 527 new cases of COVID-19, the highest single-day jump so far. The total number of cases in the state as of Monday is 3,550, and of this, hundreds are believed to have contracted the infection, directly or indirectly, from the Koyambedu cluster.
The state administration has, as of Monday morning, been coordinating with the district administrations to track and trace all those who had visited the busy marketplace in the last few days. “We have given a list of people who have travelled from Koyambedu to various districts and they are working to trace them and test them. Many people have been placed on quarantine also in various districts,” J Radhakrishnan, Special Nodal Officer for COVID-19 Monitoring and Control, Chennai Corporation told reporters.
Officials said that approximately 4,900 people from the market place, including owners of outlets and workers, have so far been tested and complete results were yet to be out.
Considering today’s trend of a big chunk of them testing positive, there was a chance that several others might also turn positive, they indicated.
Since the market has become a concern for authorities, State Disaster Response Force and Armed Reserve personnel were deployed as part of efforts to regulate movement of traders and help prevent the further spread of the contagion.
After inspecting the market, Commissioner of Revenue Administration and special nodal officer here for COVID-19 initiatives here, Radhakrishnan told reporters that focused testing was on at the market place under which all the employees were being tested.
Pointing out that several people who tested positive were asymptomatic, he said arrangements were on to house such patients in facilities like colleges and the Trade Centre at Nandambakkam, which are designated as Covid Care Centres, rather than in hospitals.
On why the market has become a hotspot, a public health expert explains that the spread happened among traders and it was not strange as they were in direct contact with a host of others like vendors and truck drivers with a history of continuous travel to several regions with high COVID-19 cases like Maharashtra.
The recent sput in cases has prompted authorities to shift the market -spread over 295 acres with over 3,000 outlets of which only about 200 of them are presently functional- to suburban Tirumazhisai .
In Chennai alone, at least 215 of the 266 new cases were linked to the Koyambedu market.
Districts, including Cuddalore, which witnessed return of workers to their native villages from the market place, have seen a similar surge.
Closing down the market or scaling down operations at the initial stage of lockdown as in the case of other segments was not possible as vegetable was a food staple and such a measure may have scared people, he said.
Hence, the available option of imposing regulations, stipulating social distancing, personal hygiene and protection measures like wearing masks were relentlessly enforced by the authorities, he pointed out.
Ever since a vegetable vendor tested positive from the market last week, Greater Chennai Corporation authorities stepped up surveillance and deployed a team of health personnel and a mobile van for testing purposes.
Besides the vendor, another flower dealer and a hairdresser in the market’s vicinity had tested positive for the coronavirus during the same period and following such cases, a new high in the number of infections among those linked to the market is now being witnessed.