Markets across north Chennai are now among the priority areas for COVID-19 testing.
In the last five to six days, over 2,000 traders were screened in some of the main markets in the northern part of the city. Markets are potential COVID-19 hotspots.
Following the emergence of the Koyambedu cluster, which led to a huge spike in cases during May, medical teams of the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) are reaching out to traders in markets across the five zones of north Chennai in a bid to detect cases early and prevent further transmission.
“We have started to test traders and shopkeepers. If a shopkeeper is infected, they can easily transmit the infection to 20 or more persons. By testing them on time, we can pick up cases early and prevent transmission. This will go on to reduce cases for the next 10 to 15 days. Along with contact tracing and surveillance of influenza-like illness, we are aggressively testing in market areas,” an official said. He added that they were seeing 8% to 10% positivity among the traders screened.
“For instance, about 10 to 15 traders at the Madhavaram market tested positive and we were able to immediately take them into isolation,” he said.
Market zones such as the Ennore Express Highway, fruit market in Madhavaram, Kothavalchavadi and a number of standalone markets in zones II (Manali) and IV (Tondiarpet) are among the focus areas now.
“Right now, the focus is on high-density market areas. Next, we will screen shopkeepers in streets where cases are reported. We may not be able to screen all traders. Our intention is to cover all markets on a rotational basis. This way, we can prevent cases from multiplying,” he added.
While medical teams went to the doorstep of traders, in one zone, the merchants association came forward and arranged for screening in a hall. “Traders can come forward for testing as asymptomatic patients can transmit the infection,” the official said.
Strike a balance
There was a need to strike a balance as this was a question of livelihood. The markets cannot be shut and people require basic commodities. Hence, apart from the static testing centres, mobile teams comprising lab technicians and nurses were involved.
“In fact, testing picked up after this change in strategy. We are now testing 2,300 samples a day in the north region,” he said.
He added that while testing had gone up, the test positivity rate has come down drastically from 45% at the beginning of the lockdown to 15 to 20% now.