Amid virus surge, life goes on at Mexico City’s main market

MEXICO CITY (AP) — As the coronavirus slams Mexico City, it was business as usual Tuesday at the city’s central wholesale food market — the scene of one of the capital’s biggest outbreaks in the spring.

The city has recorded nearly 21,000 deaths related to COVID-19 so far and 75% of its hospital beds are full, but some people strolled around the Central de Abasto produce market without masks. And those wearing masks often had them pulled down below their noses.

The approximately 3-square-kilometer (square-mile) compound of warehouses, loading bays, wholesale outlets and parking lots is the main depot for getting fruit, vegetables and other produce to about 20 million consumers in the metropolitan area.

A half million people visit each day, almost as many as before the pandemic. Squads of health workers in white protective suits dispense sanitizing hand gel along the busy corridors.

A police guard is stationed at the market’s main entrance to check temperatures, but mostly the drivers of buses or trucks are checked while buyers are bypassed, and police sometimes don’t even look at the readings.

Tents set up outside the market perform about 250 coronavirus tests each day, and 21% to 24% are positive, depending on the day of the week. However, those getting tests include residents of surrounding communities as well as the 90,000 workers at the sprawling complex.

The market hit a peak of over 200 cases per week in May, after which the weekly number of new cases had fallen to about 60 or 70. But now the market is back up to peak levels.

Management has set up triage areas for those who test positive and provides free transportation to a hospital if needed.

Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has warned that the city is on the verge of returning to a red alert as infections rise. That would mean a partial lockdown of the capital. The central market, however, is a necessity for the city’s well-being and cannot close — posing a conundrum for officials.

Copyright © 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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