As India debates whether lockdown must be extended until the respective areas report no new cases for 14 consecutive days, a shocking incident in Chennai’s wholesale market reveals the perils of jumping the gun and opening the country without following the social distancing norm. Tamil Nadu was on its way to flatten the curve but is now witnessing a second wave of infections as its Koyambedu wholesale market has now contributed to 122 new cases with more infections likely to be reported in the next few days.
The Koyambedu wholesale market sees people from the entire state of Tamil Nadu flock to it which has only increased as amidst the lockdown, the market has continued to partially function. The market has now emerged as a super spreader of the Wuhan coronavirus as it has alarmingly turned orange zone districts into red zone districts.
Times of India reports that people who have visited the market have started testing positive in “droves”. The northern district of Tamil Nadu, Cuddalore has witnessed 122 new cases of the highly contagious virus and concerningly, almost all of them can be traced to back to the Koyambedu wholesale market. The numbers in the district will only rise as the test results of 450 people who have been to the market or have been in contact with a person who has visited the market are awaited.
Not just Cuddalore, Villupuram has witnessed 82 new cases as 33 people tested positive on Sunday while 49 people tested positive on Monday, all of them have been said to have visited the Koyambedu market. In Dindigul, out of the 100 people screened upon their return from the market, have tested positive.
Owing to this in Villupuram alone, 459 people have been quarantined with Villupuram, Cuddalore, Tenkasi, and Dindigul now reclassified as red zones who incidentally were removed from the list of red zones just a few days back. Districts of Ariyalur and Perambalur who were to date recording single-digit cases of the virus has witnessed a huge spike as the cases in the districts have are 34 and 36 respectively — all of them linked to the Koyambedu market.
Tamil Nadu reported 527 new cases of the virus on Monday with Chennai alone contributing to 266 cases owing to the Koyambedu market as the state’s tally of the virus now over 3,550. Why did the state government not decentralise the Koyambedu market is the burning question as a rough estimate indicates that around 7,500 people which includes the workers, traders and buyers have visited the market and now left for their respective hometowns in Cuddalore, Villupuram, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, and Permbalur as the state administration scrambles to aggressively scale up contact tracing and testing.
This is eerily similar to what Tamil Nadu was facing in April as the state was gravely hit by the Tablighi Jamaat. This is nothing but Tablighi Jamaat 2.0 for Tami Nadu as it finds itself back to square one. On April 7, Tamil Nadu had a total of 621 cases of the virus of which 574 were linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation. The state’s cases then zoomed as it occupied the second spot after Maharashtra in India’s statewide tally of the cases of the virus.
After painstaking efforts, Tamil Nadu was on its way to flattening the curve as the new cases of the virus were in sharp decline until last week. Now, with the Koyambedu market, the state has self-inflicted a second wave of the virus upon itself. Earlier, disturbing images and videos emerged where thousands could be seen flocking to vegetable shops and grocery stores- desperate to hoard vegetables and other food items whilst flouting all the social distancing norms.
This is the kind of stuff that gives one a bad feeling about the lifting of the lockdown. Such clusters could arise in many places especially as lockdown is relaxed. Alcohol stores were reopened in many states leading to massive unregulated crowds, which is really a nightmare in this scenario.
Lifting of the lockdown does not mean that everything shall return to normal, in fact, if Indians do not radically follow social distancing, then the doom is yet to come and it won’t be good.