Delhi’s Azadpur mandi trader dies of Covid-19, sellers demand market be shuttered
The death uncovered two more Covid-19 cases linked to the Azadpur Mandi, creating panic among sellers who demanded the market’s closure and initiation of containment activities.Updated: Apr 23, 2020, 11:03 IST
The Azadpur wholesale fruit and vegetable market reported its first Covid-19 related death after a 57-year old jackfruit and pea trader died on Tuesday. The death uncovered two more Covid-19 cases linked to the Azadpur Mandi, creating panic among sellers who demanded the market’s closure and initiation of containment activities. A senior district official, however, said these were not the first Covid-19 cases to be reported from the Mandi.
“The 57-year-old man was confirmed positive on Monday after his sample was collected on April 19. He is a resident of Majlis Park and was admitted to a private hospital two days prior to being tested (April 17),” district magistrate (north) Deepak Shinde said.
Late on Tuesday, Shinde said the number of people who would need to be put under quarantine was not yet known as surveillance teams were still preparing a list of people from the Mandi and his family who came in contact with the deceased. “He had a business partner, who is also being contacted,” a senior official said.
A second senior official from the district, however, said this was not the first instance that someone from Azadpur Mandi has tested positive for Covid-19.
“Earlier, a tomato dealer from Shalimar Bagh and a cauliflower seller who had left for his hometown in UP’s Ghonda were both found positive. So, rigorous contact tracing is on,” said the official who did not wish to be named.
Meanwhile, traders demanded a complete lockdown of the market. “The authorities are being very negligent about Covid-19 spread in the market. We urge the government to shut the market for the time being. We are ready to do business in the open while adhering to all social distancing norms and regulations at Japanese Park or any other big stadium,” said Anil Malhotra, a trader.
The DM said the shop of the 57-year old Covid-19 deceased and its surrounding areas have been cordoned off. “Other containment measures will be decided and put in place Wednesday,” he said.
The Covid-19 death comes a day after the Delhi government allowed the Azadpur Mandi--Asia’s largest fruit and vegetable wholesale market—to operate round-the-clock.
Earlier on Tuesday, the first day after the government’s announcement of running the Azadpur Mandi 24x7, the police and civil defence volunteers had a tough time controlling crowds as many people jumped the boundary to enter the Mandi. The situation, however, was soon brought under control as 900 civil defence volunteers (CDV) were deployed along the market’s boundary.
The police have deployed drones for continuous monitoring and have warned people that violators would be booked. The market traders’ association has also installed loudspeakers to remind people to maintain physical distancing.
Gauging the severity of the situation in the market at a time when the city-state of Delhi, which has the second highest number of coronvirus cases in the country at 2,156, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal personally took stock of the situation and directed officials to ensure “no crowding, including vehicular traffic” occurs in the area.
Union minister of state (home) G Kishan Reddy also inspected the mandi on Tuesday and reviewed the arrangements in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, while ensuring the measure achieves its purpose—to help farmers sell their produce and minimise the prices of vegetables which have witnessed a hike due to the ongoing lockdown.
Senior Delhi police officers said hundreds of supply trucks and tempos queued up outside the entry gate in the early hours of Tuesday but the situation was “like any other day” before the lockdown. The long queues did not affect the traffic as Delhi remains under lockdown and the roads were largely empty, police said.
Under the new arrangement, which came into effect Monday night, entry of only 1,000 persons is allowed every four hours in the market. While fruits and vegetables will be sold between 6am and 10 pm, trucks have been allowed entry from 10pm to 6am. However, on Tuesday, aside from the traders and farmers, the wholesale market saw a huge rush of people who thronged the place after hearing that it would remain open 24x7.
“A large number of people living in and around Azadpur came to buy vegetables and fruits for their daily needs. We are allowing entry only through tokens and e-passes, the distribution of which is highly regulated. But a lot of people entered the market by climbing its boundary walls; one side of the grilled fencing was also damaged because of people trying to break in,” a senior officer deputed at the market said on the condition of anonymity.
“The crowd was brought under control by late afternoon. We have deployed 900 police and CDVs all along the boundaries of the Azadpur mandi. The situation is under control,” Adil Khan, chairperson of the Azadpur agriculture produce market committee, said, adding that the biggest challenge being faced was that of social distancing.
Deputy commissioner of police (northwest) Vijayanta Arya said the police have put adequate arrangements in place.
“Because it’s a vast area that will now be active around the clock, we are using drones for monitoring. The APMC has put in place a mechanism to operate while following social distancing. It will be made sure that all vendors and customers who come are properly sanitized even during the late night hours. We have our deployment to ensure that APMC’s mechanism isn’t violated. Any violation that is reported will be followed by legal action,” Arya said.
APMC head Khan said at least 50 public announcement systems have been procured for constantly reminding people about the importance of physical distancing and to maintain law and order.
“Besides, six teams have been deployed to do continuous video recording of all activities inside the market. This is being done so people realise they are being watched and it acts as a deterrent to violate the lockdown rules. The footage also helps us think of new regulatory measures,” he said.
Khan added that disinfection tunnel that was installed at the entry and exit of the Azadpur mandi has now been discontinued.
Measure comes after the Union ministry of health and family welfare in an advisory on Monday urged local administrations to avoid using disinfectant tunnels, which spray sodium hypochlorite over individuals in order to disinfect them. “Spraying an individual or group with chemical disinfectants is physically and psychologically harmful,” the ministry said.
The Delhi government has written to the Centre asking for a better chemical solution that could be used for disinfection of humans, Khan said.