Chennai

Watch | What turned Koyambedu market into a COVID-19 hotspot?

A video explainer on the bustling Koyambedu market turning into a COVID-19 hotspot

Chennai’s popular wholesale market at Koyambedu has turned into a COVID-19 hotspot. Cases linked to this market have been steadily increasing, with the infection quietly spreading to less-affected districts of Tamil Nadu.

As of May 8, 2020, out of the 6000 cases recorded in Tamil Nadu, more than 1,500 cases are linked to this market.

COVID-19 | Interactive map of confirmed coronavirus cases in India

How did this happen?

Established in 1996, the Koyambedu market complex is one of Asia’s largest hubs for perishable goods. It is spread over 65 acres and has over 3,750 licensed shops selling flowers, fruits and vegetables. The market receives its produce from several parts of the country and employs more than 10,000 labourers.

On any given day, the market would see at least one lakh visitors. It would go upto two lakh visitors on festival days. Therefore overcrowding and congestion was a common sight at the Koyambedu market.

It was no different during the first phase of lockdown. The rush grew when the State government imposed restrictions on working hours. The market continued to receive a steady flow of people, which included retailers as well as individual customers.

Ahead of the Tamil New Year on April 14, the market witnessed a heavy rush. Thereafter, the situation persisted as people resorted to panic buying. During all this, there was a scant regard for physical distancing.

Efforts were taken to close some parts of the market and restrict the crowds. But, the virus had already spread leaving the market conducive for transmission. During the lockdown, labourers from the market did not have enough work and made their way back home.

By the end of April, the Koyambedu market turned into the largest hotspot for COVID-19, with several districts in Tamil Nadu witnessing a spillover of cases.

The infection has now spread to at least half of Tamil Nadu. As vendors tested positive for the virus, labourers including loadmen were affected in several districts.

While the government managed to trace all index cases, contact tracing has proven to be a huge challenge. This was due to the massive crowding at the marketplace.

Also read: Coronavirus | Traders to blame for Koyambedu market cluster, says Edappadi Palaniswami

Public health officials say that, a person who tested positive had more than 200 contacts. The market has been closed since May 5 but the cluster continues to trigger a spike in COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu.

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Printable version | May 29, 2020 12:31:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/what-turned-koyambedu-market-into-a-covid-19-hotspot/article31588740.ece

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