With the number of COVID-19 cases reported from Azadpur mandi rising, alarm bells are ringing within the establishment. Till Tuesday, 11 traders had tested positive for the disease, and 34 people were asked to quarantine themselves. Of these, 17 are employees who live in shops at the mandi.
The Sonepat (Haryana) district administration has also banned inflow of fruits and vegetables from the mandi. In an order on Sunday, it said anyone who goes to Azadpur mandi to sell vegetables or fruits will be booked under the Disaster Management Act and IPC Section 188 (disobedience of an order promulgated by a public servant).
The decision was taken after a resident of the area, who worked at Azadpur mandi, tested positive. In Jhajjar, too, which till last week had not seen a single case, a vegetable vendor who visited the mandi tested positive.
The first trader who tested positive at the mandi was a 57-year-old man, who later succumbed to the disease. Three more people tested positive a few days later. On Monday, reports of seven others also came out positive. An official from Azadpur’s Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC), said, “On three different occasions, samples of 70 people including staff, labourers, munshis who came in contact with the traders were taken. The results are awaited.”
Around 700 workers at the market have been screened, and many have either been quarantined at the stalls or the shops have been sealed. The official said, “Around 15 shops have been sealed by us, though there are some who have voluntarily shut shop as well.”
All 11 traders who tested positive so far had visited the mandi. “A few of them were asymptomatic, while others had mild symptoms. They have been hospitalised. They come from all over Delhi, including Majlis Park, Mukherjee Nagar, Shalimar Bagh, even Noida,” said the official. The source of transmission, according to district officials, has not been ascertained for all 11 so far.
Adeel Ahmed Khan, chairperson of the APMC Azadpur Market, said, “Earlier, we used to sanitise twice a day, but now we are doing it at shorter intervals. We are maintaining strict social distancing norms and making sure everyone wears masks, even imposing a challan of Rs 500 when required.”
A token system is already in place at the market, which is Asia’s largest vegetable and fruit wholesale market, wherein 3,300 tokens are given each day. On Monday too, all tokens were given out. “It is too early to say if vehicle traffic has reduced, as the number of tokens being given out is the same as before,” Khan said. To avoid a long line of trucks outside the mandi, they have been diverted to the Nirankari Park at Burari, a few kilometres away, where they get coupons.
On Tuesday, workers at the mandi wondered when their test results will be shared with them. “I just want to know the results as it has been six days. What if one of us has it and it is too late?” said a worker.
District Magistrate (North) Deepak Shinde said, “We have been taking many measures — contact tracing, collecting samples, quarantining people — at home and at shops. We have even set up a ground for the trucks and reduced the number of vehicles going inside the market, keeping in mind social distancing.”
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