Covid-19: the 65-acre Tamil Nadu market is now a super spreader

The Koyambedu Wholesale Market, which attracts people from all over Tamil Nadu looking to sell their products or are looking for work, has become a Covid-19 super diffuser, pushing many districts into the red zone from the orange zone as infections increase.

From Cuddalore in northern Tamil Nadu to Dindigul in the south, people who visited the 65-acre Koyambedu market, which also receives trucks from across the country, began to test positive en masse. Almost all of the 122 positive cases reported in Cuddalore on Monday go back to Koyambedu. Test results of 450 more contacts from Koyambedu are expected. Forty-nine Villupuram people who visited the market tested positive on Monday, while 33 did so on Sunday.

Now Cuddalore, Villupuram, Dindigul, and Tenkasi are likely to be reclassified as red zones. These were among the 14 districts in TN that had gone from red to orange just a few days ago. Koyambedu's group has sent the official machinery in the districts into overdrive: Border control has been stepped up to arrest, test and isolate people coming from Chennai.

Villupuram Police Superintendent S Jayaram said four centers had been established to quarantine 459 people who visited the Koyambedu market and 287 of their close contacts. Tirupur and Salem district authorities have issued notices and helpline numbers asking people connected to Koyambedu to report for voluntary testing.

Dindigul district collector M Vijayalakshmi said that of the 100 people who returned from Koyambedu and were examined, 10 tested positive on Monday, their contacts are being tracked and selected, he said.

Collectors and health officials in western districts have also raised their guard. In Tiruppur, two shippers who traveled in a watermelon truck from Koyambedu two days ago tested positive. In Coimbatore, 28 people with a history of travel to Koyambedu have been tracked so far, while in Nilgiris 43 have been tracked.

Deputy Director of Health Services Dr. G Ramesh Kumar said the 28 people tracked in Coimbatore are from Mettupalayam, Sirumugai and Pollachi. Ariyalur and Perambalur, the two central districts of Tamil Nadu had maintained single digit positive cases daily. No more. In the last four days, the number of positive cases increased from eight to 34 in Ariyalur and from nine to 36 in Perambalur. And, they are all linked to Koyambedu.