More Covid-19 Clusters Spring Up In TN Due To Chennai’s ‘Super Spreader’ Vegetable Market, Govt Left Red-Faced

More Covid-19 Clusters Spring Up In TN Due To Chennai’s ‘Super Spreader’ Vegetable Market, Govt Left Red-FacedTamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami. 

New novel Coronavirus (Covid-19) clusters have cropped up in Tamil Nadu, particularly in Chennai, due to the capital main vegetable and fruits market at Koyambedu emerging a ‘super-spreader’.

In view of this, the State has begun to report over 500 positive cases each day since the start of this week. Yesterday (6 May), Tamil Nadu reported a record 771 Covid-19 positive cases taking the total number to 4,829.

Since 1 May, the State has reported a total of 2,506 cases, leaving the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government led by Edappadi K Palaniswami (EPS) red-faced. Going by this trend, the State's numbers will likely top 5,000 today.

Of the total number of Covid-19 cases in Tamil Nadu, capital Chennai has reported 2,328 cases, accounting for a little over 48 per cent of the total cases in the State.

Chennai’s Koyambedu vegetable market has become the single source responsible for the huge spike in Tamil Nadu and Chennai numbers since the start of this month.

Going by data from Greater Chennai Corporation, its TVK Nagar (357 cases), Kodambakkam (352 cases), Royapuram (269 cases), Teynampet (243 cases), Valsaravakkam (166 cases), Anna Nagar (154 cases), Tondiarpet (126 cases), Ambattur (106 cases) and Adayar (80 cases) zones make up the bulk of the pandemic virus cases in the capital.

Among these zones, Kodambakkam, Teynampet, Valsaravakkam, Anna Nagar, Ambattur and Adayar have emerged as new Coronavirus clusters with a large number of the cases being traced to the Koyambedu vegetable market.

The emergence of these clusters is interesting. Kodambakkam is the zone under which Chennai’s main vegetable and fruits market falls.

Valsaravakkam, Anna Nagar and Ambattur zones adjoin the Koyambedu market and they have turned into areas of concern. Health experts say that a large number of Covid-19 positive cases have been reported in a five km range starting from suburban Maduravoyal to Amanjikarai in central Chennai.

There are other worrisome factors for the spread in other zones. Teynampet has reported huge numbers as two clusters have come up there -- one near Ice House due to an infected pregnant woman dying at the Government Kasturba Gandhi Hospital for Women and Child at Triplicane.

The second is one particular street reporting 80 Covid-19 cases traced to a vegetable vendor who had got infected from the Koyambedu market.

Ambattur and Anna Nagar cases are also traced to Koyambedu but Valasarvakkam’s case is more worrisome.

A hair-dresser got infected with the pandemic virus after visiting the Koyambedu market and he became the source of infection for many others in his locality by opening his saloon before the lockdown was lifted.

Royapuram and Tondiarpet cases are traced to the Tablighi Jamaat Aalami Markaz Nizamuddin events at Delhi in March. Royapuram cluster case got complicated after 50 employees of a Tamil television news channel tested positive for Coronavirus.

TVK Nagar became a cluster after 20 persons took part in a prayer house meeting in which two infected Chennai Corporation sanitation workers took part.

The Koyambedu vegetable market is also the source for the Coronavirus cases reported from southern parts of Tamil Nadu that had been free from the pandemic until early this week.

Districts such as Ariyalur, Cuddalore and Villupuram have reported a large number of Covid-19 cases which have been traced to the Koyambedu vegetable market. People from these districts have either worked at the market or were vendors.

Sources say that many of them rushed back home to escape testing for the virus.In one case, 120 people took a truck to travel to Cuddalore in which two infected persons too travelled. This has now resulted in a large number of new cases.

According to government officials, about 7,700 persons are engaged in some sort of work at the Koyambedu vegetable and they are all potential Coronavirus carriers.

The cause for concern is that quite a large number of policemen, health department employees and sanitary workers are testing positive for the pandemic virus, raising fears that the situation has, perhaps, gone out of control.

Experts are questioning Greater Chennai Corporation and police authorities for allowing the Koyambedu market to function until last week despite the nation-wide lockdown coming into force from 24 March.

The EPS government is under scrutiny for allowing the market to function for so long even without following basic precautions such as testing truck drivers who brought various agricultural products from other States and regions.

The AIADMK Government is being criticised since 15,000-20,000 people visit the Koyambedu market every day and it functioned as usual during the lockdown period.

No physical distancing or other sanitary precautions, including sanitizing washrooms and laboratories that hundreds make use of, were taken.

Also, a total lockdown announced during 26-29 April during the nation-wide lockdown period witnessed a mad rush to the vegetable market on 25 April. At least 45,000 people are reported to have visited the market that day.

The Adayar zone cases in Chennai have been traced to a vegetable market at Thiruvanmiyur, mainly due to the 25 April flocking of the people to buy and beat the 26-29 April lockdown. A couple of vendors in the market are feared to have got infected from Koyambedu.

Political experts say the ruling AIADMK government will have a lot of explanation to do on the Koyambedu vegetable market turning a super-spreader with some even seeking a thorough probe on why officials failed to implement the lockdown in all seriousness from 24 March.

M.R. Subramani is Executive Editor, Swarajya. He tweets @mrsubramani

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