Kochi

Lockdown to stay in Varapuzha panchayat

Concern over crowding in violation of physical distancing protocol at market

After concerns were raised about crowding at the Varapuzha market disregarding the physical distancing protocol necessitated by COVID-19, panchayat officials and the police have come up with an action plan to mitigate chances of the disease spreading in the wake of two Varapuzha natives testing positive earlier this week.

The panchayat, including the market, will observe a complete lockdown on Sundays from next week onwards, irrespective of whether or not a State-wide lockdown is in place on Sundays. Varapuzha panchayat president K. S. Muhammed said timings will be strictly enforced at the market, which re-opened after lockdown relaxations in May. Auctioning, which is conducted by four persons, at the fish market will be permitted only from 3 a.m. to 7 a.m. Retail stalls will remain open till 7 p.m.

Around 400 people visit the market in the morning hours, Mr. Muhammed said. To avoid crowding near shops, auctions had earlier been shifted to the parking space nearby, he added.

“The crowd had become difficult to handle, particularly during auctions when there would be no physical distancing. With police personnel on duty at the airport, it has become difficult to deploy additional hands to watch the market, particularly since it operates for more than 12 hours daily,” said a panchayat health official. Some headload workers were randomly tested as part of the Health Department’s surveillance, and they tested negative, he added.

During peak hours, particularly when auctions are under way, the police will deploy additional personnel, said Shibu E.V., Sub Inspector, Varapuzha. At present, two officers are stationed at the market in the morning hours. “If the crowd cannot be controlled even after the action plan comes into effect from Monday, we will have to proceed with closing the market,” he said.

Transporters have been instructed to remain inside their vehicles when supplies are unloaded. “Only vehicles from within the State unload goods at the market. Vegetables and fish arrive here from Tamil Nadu, but they are unloaded at Aluva and then brought here,” said Paul B. secretary, Swathantra Matsya Thozhilali Union. Payments to suppliers have all been made online to minimise contact, he added. Private vehicles will no longer be permitted into the market, and goods vehicles will enter and exit through the same gate. Records will be maintained of people entering the market.

A local resident and office-bearer of the CITU-affiliated Matsya Thozhilali Union had written to the district administration earlier alerting it about the absence of physical distancing at the market.

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Printable version | Jul 7, 2020 7:22:20 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Kochi/lockdown-to-stay-in-varapuzha-panchayat/article31936444.ece

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