Market crowd ‘poses threat of virus spread'

PRECAUTIONARY measures are being flouted at Bahrain’s main market, increasing the risk of the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) at the facility, it has been claimed.

Reportedly at least 10 men – all expatriate employees at the Manama Central Market – have tested Covid-19 positive in the past two days.

Employees told the GDN regulations on social distancing and a ban on gathering were being openly flouted at the market which is frequented by 4,000 people every day.

“There are only two gates and two security guards, but the crowd inside the market is still the same like before,” said Indian employee Askhar Poozhithala.

“There are no restrictions on how many people can enter the market and at any given time there will be three people at a stall, and that too close to one another.

“The crowd outside the market is the same.

“Ten people among us tested positive while others are awaiting their results.

“We use gloves and masks, but with the crowd this was of no use.”

The market in the heart of the capital hosts vendors selling fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. Ninety per cent of the employees at the stalls are expats, mainly from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan.

Besides the more than 2,000 employees, the market sees a floating crowd of another 2,000 people daily.

“We appreciate the Health Ministry’s efforts, but we fear a spread inside the market,” said another expat employee who requested anonymity.

“The crowd at the auctions in the morning is always huge and despite being prohibited a sale still goes on outside the market.”

The GDN reported last month that preventive measures had been announced to limit gatherings and safeguard the health of customers and traders.

Decisions included limiting the auction of fruits and vegetables between 1am and 6am and restricting it to traders who can enter the premises only through the two gates.

It was also decided that there would be no pick-ups or sale on the sidewalks, while the market would remain open for customers, as always, from 4am to 2pm, but with limited entry points.

“We cannot close the market as a lot of businesses depend on this market for all types of produce,” said another Indian salesman.

“But we seek the authorities’ urgent attention into crowding; we suggest that there should be strict measures like checking the temperature of people entering the market and limiting the number people inside the market to less than 20 at any given time.

“Both employees and customers should use masks and gloves.

“We are poor people who live on this earning and we may not be able to survive if we don’t have this job.”

Meanwhile, Capital Board of Trustees chairman Salah Tarradah told the GDN that the municipality authorities should seek the advice of the National Covid-19 Task Force.

“They (taskforce) are experts and they know the larger picture, from where they will be able to tell us what to do, as the situation is of concern,” he said. Capital Municipality officials could not be reached for comments.




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