From Delhi to Chennai:

Indian wholesale vegetable markets are turning into COVID hotspots

Chennai’s COVID-19 numbers, which up until 1 April showed a rather linear rise, skyrocketed the following month, with the figure pegged at 4,882 cases on 12 May, according to a Tamil Nadu public health official.

The single biggest reason for this exponential rise was attributed to the Koyambedu wholesale market in the city. So far, around 3,000 COVID-19 cases have been linked to the fruit and flower market, with its effect now showing up even in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh.

“Chennai had reported only 26 Corona-virus cases by 1 April. On 14 April, the cases count was 219 but by 12 May, infections had skyrocketed and the cumulative number stood at 4,882,” said the public health official, adding that due to the Koyambedu COVID cluster, the infection has spread exponentially to several other districts such as Ariyalur and Perambalur.

While Koyambedu is the worst such offender, wholesale markets across the country have emerged as COVID-19 hotspots, primarily because they have been functioning throughout the lockdown as a part of essential services.

To make matters worse, huge crowds are integral to the operation of such wholesale markers. As such, rules of lockdown, especially related to social distancing, are often overlooked in the initial hours at the markets due to the auctions that see farmers, labourers, wholesalers, middlemen, traders and others come together. They are often without masks and do not follow other necessary precautions.


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