Mashudu Netsianda, Senior Reporter
VENDORS frequenting Bulawayo’s fresh vegetable markets are disregarding key Covid-19 containment measures such as social distancing and proper wearing of facemasks, making such areas potential hotspots for the deadly pandemic.

Fresh vegetable markets this week came under Government spotlight as they have become the latest Covid-19 hotspots to be analysed.

On Monday, Government said it is analysing fresh vegetable markets in Harare and Bulawayo.

Zimbabwe’s Covid-19 death toll rose to 80 on Tuesday and cases surpassed the 4 000 mark. Government has noted that persons from different environs visit markets in Bulawayo and Harare hence testing will give an indication of infection rates.

In her weekly media briefing on Monday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, said Government noted that there was a high risk posed by markets due to crowding, poor sanitation conditions for vendors and improper donning of masks by the generality of the public and vendors

A Chronicle news crew yesterday visited Fife Street Market in Bulawayo’s city centre and observed that traders were not adhering to health guidelines such as observing social distancing as evidenced by crowding.

Although people were subjected to temperature checking and hand sanitising before entering the marketplaces, police and soldiers had a torrid time trying to control the crowds.

Ms Anna Ncube of Makokoba said the market place was synonymous with long queues and crowding every morning with people disregarding social distancing.

“I come here every morning to buy fresh produce for resale and what you are seeing is a daily norm. We have people who are impatient and each time they are here, they want to jump queues resulting in everyone shoving and pushing of each other,” she said.

“There is no social distancing and it appears people are more worried about making money at the expense of their own lives.”

Mr Maxwell Dube weighed in: “Market places have become hotspots for Covid-19 because there is just too much crowding and some people are not even properly wearing their masks making it easy for the virus to spread.

“The problem is that everyone is only worried about their own business of the day and adhering to Covid-19 regulation is a secondary issue. Most of us just want buy and leave the market place as early as possible so that we are able board Zupco before peak hour.”

Mrs Priscilla Mukondo, a vendor from New Lobengula, said while she was scared of contracting Covid-19, she had no choice as vending is her only source of livelihood.

“Of course, it is worrying to come here and join these long queues where there is no social distancing. We mingle with each other yet we don’t even know who has the virus, but at the end of the day I have to take care of my family,” she said.

Mr Albert Nyathi said although he tries his best to stay safe, there were people disregarding Covid-19 preventions regulations and putting others at risk.

He expressed concern over some people not properly wearing face masks yet they spend most of the time at the market conducting business.

Ms Lindokuhle Moyo from Nkulumane suburb said some people only adhere to Covid-19 prevention measures in the presence of police.

“It appears we have some people who only adhere to the Covid-19 regulations whenever there is a police officer or soldier in the vicinity. A lot of people here do not pay much attention to the principle of social distancing and you find some shaking hands,” she said.

Mr Calvin Anderson, a local farmer who was at the market place to sell his produce, said although shop owners are doing their best in terms of sanitising their clients, some businesses were allowing people to crowd their small spaces.

Bulawayo city health director Dr Edwin Sibanda said they were in the process of formulating a strategy of testing people in some of the city’s identified hot spots.

“We suspect that markets could be the new Covid-19 hotspot in the city. We are now in the process of formulating a strategy of testing people in some of these hotspots and see whether we get positive cases to confirm that they are indeed hotspots,” he said.

Dr Sibanda said in terms of enforcing Covid-19 containment measures, law enforcement agents are mandated to enforce the regulations

“It is the duty of law enforcement agents to ensure that people observe social distancing and other regulations and as council and taskforce team, we can only recommend. We have pointed out that there are some areas where there is crowding such as markets, bus termini and pick up points,” he [email protected]