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Crowded Koyambedu pays the price

There is no letdown in COVID-19 cases stemming from the Koyambedu wholesale market, one of the largest wholesale markets in Asia for perishable commodities, and the latest hotspot for the virus in the city.

Crowded Koyambedu pays the price
Special officer J Radhakrishnan meets COVID task force personnel at Koyambedu market on Monday


More than 100 positive cases, including that of vendors and labourers from across the State, have been reported with Koyambedu as the source. The zonal officials are tracing people who had been in contact with the confirmed cases.

“We are clueless on from where they contracted the virus.The market receives vegetables from various states like Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. The vendors might be infected through the traders. Also, on April 25, when the complete lockdown was announced, more than a lakh people visited the market without maintaining any social distance,” said P Sukumaran, secretary, Koyambedu Wholesale Merchants’ Association.

On Sunday, nearly 220 wholesale shops were opened at the market, but now only 170 shops are running. Also, every day, at least 10 shops are being closed due to the fear of COVID-19. “The vegetable loads have reduced in the last few days. Earlier, we used to receive 400 truckloads every day. It has come down to 170. Also, the prices of all the vegetables have gone up by 10 to 15 per cent,” said Sukumaran.

The early positive cases were reported at the flower market at the Koyambedu wholesale market. But so far, all the 400 vendors in the flower market have not been tested. It is said a few vendors got tested by volunteering themselves in the nearby healthcare centres.

“The vendor who tested positive got the infection from his neighbour. After that, we closed the flower market. After reporting the first case, the city Corporation took samples of 120 vendors and their results are negative. Other vendors and labourers tested on their own at the nearby healthcare centres and we are awaiting the results. Also, all the vendors are in Chennai and self-quarantined since April 25,” said S Mookandi, secretary of Koyambedu Flower Merchants Association.

Vendors complain that the people fail to adhere to social distancing at the market. Adding to the woes are the retail vendors who sell on the pathway.

“The market is one of the crowded places in the city. It is the only wholesale market to function during the lockdown. Positive cases surfaced after April 24, and we don’t know the source of the virus. Within two days the samples from the wholesale vegetable vendors will be taken,” said a senior official with Chennai Metropolitan Development Authority.

“We have quarantined around 80 vendors from the flower market, and we have traced contacts from the positive cases. Soon, we will be taking samples from the vegetable market vendors,” said a senior official from Kodambakkam zone. 

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