Chennai: With 2,500 (primary and their contacts) testing positive at Koyambedu Market cluster, in the overall tally of 9,674 COVID cases in Tamil Nadu, this one cluster having COVID linkage is emerging as bigger hotspot than Tabligi Markaz in New Delhi.
The Corona cluster at Koyambedu Market bursting at its seam does not attract the headlines that the news of Tabligi Jamat Markaz- Covid-19 links did in the last week of March, 2020.
Then touted as a national calamity, a particular community was vilified for weeks together, accusing it for the spread of Corona virus in the country.
Since there is no Muslim angle to the Covid- 19 explosion at Koyambedu Market, therefore it does not have the same impact factor as the Tabligi Jamat Markaz story, this news is being soft paddled by the national media.
One wonders, what Union Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi have to say on Corona- Koyambedu connection, as earlier he had commented that if the Markaz-Corona links had not taken place, the Covid cases in India may have been much less.
Now with 2,500 cases emerging from one cluster and counting, this is a alarming figure but no national media wants to run this story with its usual guns blazing because there is only juice and no pulp fiction in this news.
During the lock down 2.0 a huge spike in infection numbers from Koyambedu market cluster came to lime light, when traders, customers, delivery persons, truck drivers and others associated with the market started testing positive. The numbers got added when hundreds of those who went back to their native places after visiting the market were also found positive.
In early stages, authorities in Cuddalore district discovered 12 positive cases and Villupuram 13 cases, that all had Koyambedu connection. After that hundreds of coronavirus cases started emerging having Koyambedu market linkages, that the Tamil Nadu government decided to close the market.
The Corona cases were not detected earlier due to the lack of testing facilities and the authorities were busy with Tabligi Jamat Markaz- Covid-19 link cases. However, in the last phase of the lockdown 2.0, when the testing kits were made available, this single Corona cluster was detected and after that the market was closed.
Media reported that Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami blamed the wholesale vegetable and fruit traders for the exploding Koyambedu market Covid cluster. He said the traders “stiffly opposed” the move but when the spread of the disease became alarmingly high from the Koyambedu market, he ordered its closure.
To this, a member of ‘All Vegetable Associations Action Committee,’ Ram Mohan denied the government’s claim that the market was responsible for the spread of Corona virus. He said “actually no proper measures were taken by the government in the last 45 days to maintain social distancing nor he market was disinfected during the lock down period and that was the reason for Corona attack at the Koyambedu market.
The Koyambedu market is one of the largest wholesale markets of flowers, vegetables and fruits in Asia. The market complex is spread over an area of 295 acres and consists of about 3,100 shops, including more than 1,000 wholesale shops and 2,000 retail shops. Set up in 1996, the complex directly employs 20,000 people and the about the same number of persons frequent there daily during normal days.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org