The rising number of Covid-19 cases in Andhra Pradesh linked to Chennai’s Koyambedu market, an infection hub, has become a major concern for health officials. Such cases have made up a considerable chunk of the new ones reported in Andhra Pradesh since May 12.
Ten of 68 new cases reported in the state on Wednesday were linked to the sprawling market, which has become notorious for its role in the spread of the coronavirus. With this, the number of such cases has gone up to 155.
On May 12, 20 of the 33 new cases in Andhra Pradesh were linked to the market. The proportion was 21 of 36 on May 14; 28 of 57 on May 15; 31 of 48 on May 16; and 19 of 52 on May 18.
Chittoor, the worst affected district in Andhra Pradesh, has reported 74 Covid-19 cases related to the area.
“About 40 of them are returnees from Koyambedu and the rest are their primary and secondary contacts. The returnees are all vegetable and flowers wholesale dealers who purchase from farmers in Andhra Pradesh and sell it at the Koyambedu market,” said Dr M Penchuliah, Chittoor District Medical Officer.
With the cases rising, over 22,000 tests have been conducted in Chittoor, while officials struggle to trace primary and secondary contacts.
The Koyambedu-linked cases were first reported on May 11 in Chittoor when eight vegetable wholesale dealers who had returned from Chennai a week earlier tested positive during community testing. Over the next nine days, 66 more cases were reported.
Such cases have been reported from Chittoor, Nellore, West Godavari, East Godavari, Kadapa, Kurnool, Anantapur, and Visakhapatnam districts. Nellore district has reported 40 cases related to Koyambedu.
Officials said the movement of vegetable sellers is not restricted as vegetables are essential goods. “When they went to Chennai a few weeks back, they did not take any precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Now, they have been advised to take all precautions when they go to the purchase vegetables from farmers here and sell it at wholesale markets in Chennai,” a health department official said.
After the Koyambedu market became a coronavirus epicentre, it was split up and shifted to two locations-with a flower market at one place and a vegetable market at the other, where retailers are not allowed.
Health officials, however, are still concerned as vegetable and flower wholesalers from Andhra Pradesh continue to go to these two markets. “If we stop wholesale dealers from going to the markets they will stop buying from farmers who will suffer. They will have to sell the vegetables locally at cheap rates or dump them,” an official said.
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