Regional News

Koyambedu cluster: A tale of callousness

Chennai:Behind the emergence of Koyambedu wholesale market as the biggest COVID cluster in TN is the failure of the Greater Chennai Corporation to assess the situation before it went out of control, and the stubbornness of the traders in not following the restrictions imposed by the civic body, said sources.

Sources from among the traders said that the infection entered the market through a flower vendor who contracted the virus from her son, a call taxi driver. After that, there was no stopping the virus. Traders alleged the civic body could have prevented this. “There are more than 3,000 loadmen and other workers in the market, who are from other districts. When several shops were closed, workers struggled for food and shelter. During a meeting, we requested officials to set a low-cost or free canteen for them. But the officials refused and asked us to set up canteens. How can we feed thousands of workers every day,” asked a member of the traders’ association.

This had disastrous consequences: Hundreds of workers left for their native villages, carrying the virus and spreading it to far flung areas. “Even before the city witnessed a spike, we had requested the authorities to control the entry of lorries from other states, and also the public. But, they failed to act on time,” the source added.

On the other hand, however, the authorities had tried to make the traders follow the restrictions strictly during a meeting. But instead of heeding to the safety calls, traders threatened to close the shops. When the civic body closed the additional gates to facilitate disinfection of vehicles entering the market, traders demanded all gates to remain open. This affected disinfection of vehicles and the Corporation stopped it midway. When the Corporation and CMDA proposed shifting the market to different parts of the city to ensure social distancing, traders opposed citing logistics difficulties.

The third group that should share of the blame is the people who flocked the market soon after the government announced complete lockdown. Meanwhile, the civic body continues to claim that the number of cases has been increasing due to targeted testing. “Testing of samples from more than 6,000 persons linked with the market is being done. Details of Koyambedu workers have been sent to respective District Collectors,” said J Radhakrishnan, special nodal officer for COVID-19 control in Chennai. Shar

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