Delhi's largest wholesale market for medicines, Bhagirath Palace in Chandni Chowk, has been shut till June 4 after at least 12 people tested positive for Covid-19 from the area in the last 10 days.

Traders said that on Saturday, one block of the market — comprising around 50 shops — was shut. The remaining market will be closed from Sunday onwards till June 4.

Ashish Grover, a trader in the market and general secretary of Delhi Drug Dealers Association, said, "There are nine to ten blocks in the market area. Today (Saturday), we have closed one block of the market from where five Covid-19 positive cases were reported in the last 2-3 days. The market will remain entirely closed from Monday till June 4, so that it can be properly sanitised and the virus spread can be stemmed. On Sunday, the market anyway remains closed. In total 12 cases have been reported from the market since May 22."

He added that two Covid-19 patients are being treated at hospitals, while the rest are in home isolation.

According to various traders' associations, Bhagirath Palace has been essential in the capital's war against Covid-19, being the state's largest wholesale market for medicines. It was open even during the lockdown period because the shops were listed under essential services.

The market in Chandi Chowk is located between Lal Quila (Red Fort) and Chandni Chowk metro stations. It has around 570 shops, where more than 2,500-3,000 people work. The wholesale market is surrounded by another wholesale market where surgical goods and electrical items are sold.

Grover said that Bhagirath Palace was a very congested market comprising narrow lanes, so social distancing was not entirely possible. However, he said that despite taking all other necessary precautions — like compulsory wearing of masks and gloves — the number of Covid-19 cases has increased in past 10 days. Hence, the traders were "terrified" and opted to shut down the market for a few days

District administration officials said that traders have told them about the about closure of the market and rising Covid-19 cases. They said that the market will be sanitised completely. Traders at the market have assured that the medical supplies in the city will not be hit.

"Visitors come to the market from different parts of the city and even many traders do not reside in Central Delhi. So it is very hard to track from where the disease is coming. We will get the market sanitised thoroughly," a district administration official said.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) had also requested lieutenant governor Anil Baijal and chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to give immediate directions to authorities to sanitise all markets across the city after a number of cases started emerging from Bhagirath Palace.

Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general CAIT, said that markets and traders cannot be left at the mercy of God and authorities should properly sanitise markets.

"Since markets are places where heavy footfall of people is always expected, the sanitisation process is all the more necessary. The CAIT has urged Delhi LG to convene a joint meeting of traders with heads of different agencies in Delhi and to chalk out a collaborative strategy for sanitisation, upkeeping and maintaining safety measures, as directed by the government in every market of Delhi," Khandelwal said.

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