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Congested Chinhoyi Farmers’ Market Spawning New Covid-19 Cases, Deaths

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

CHINHOYI residents have expressed concernS over the rise in Covid-19 positive cases and fatalities which they point to congestion at Makonde Farmers Market situated in Gadzema township, where farmers and hawkers converge to trade in fresh vegetables without observing regulations.
The wholesale market is daily teeming with people most of who do not adhere to Covid-19 prevention and containment measures.
These measures include, wearing face masks, hand sanitising, and physical distancing.
Farmers who spoke to NewZimbabwe.com Sunday lamented the risk of contracting the novel coronavirus, saying enforcement of Covid-19 regulations was lax at the market.
 “Council has to decongest the place by relocating some of the farmers back to the main market. Its crowded and both farmers and those coming to buy vegetables are not adhering to Covid-19 regulations making it an epicentre of spreading the disease,” McAthony Gwemure from Chitomborwizi said.
A Chinhoyi resident, Winnet Mutemera, said the daily crowds at the market were spawning new Covid-19 infections in Makonde district, a coronavirus hotspot.
“We are at very high risk of getting Covid-19 here. There are a lot of people coming into this market and most are disregarding regulations, its scary,” said Mutemera.
Another farmer, who preferred anonymity, urged council to remove illegal vendors who throng the market.
Makonde Farmers’Market administrator, Jokonaih Shoko said the congestion was due to an influx of illegal vendors.
“We have tried to address this issue so  many times, but my voice is in the wilderness. People remain at risk of contracting Covid-19 if this issue is not addressed in time,” said Shoko.
Chinhoyi Municipality spokesperson Tichaona Mlauzi said council had put measures to decongest the market.
“We wouldn’t want people to gather and congest the market. This particular market is a wholesale and we expect  retailers to get their orders and revert to their designated places. But we have a situation in which even household consumers come to buy,” said Mlauzi.
Contacted for comment, council Health director, William Mayabo admitted the crowds were potential Covid-19 super-spreaders.
“We acknowledge people are overcrowding at the market. With Covid-19, we don’t allow that. We devised a system to decongest the market by saying we want strictly farmers but this is not heeded.
“Our council security and police are overwhelmed by the defiance but they will make sure that sanity prevails at the market,” said Mayabo.
Recently, the Health ministry placed Hurungwe, Karoi, Kariba and Makonde on localised lockdowns after a rise in new infections and deaths.