Sunday 7 June, 2020

COVID-19: Central Market limits crowds

The Central Market in Port of Spain has taken steps to try to protect customers from gathering in any large numbers. 

Officers from the Port of Spain City Police Special Operations Unit, are said to be trying to enforce a system where persons of no more than 35 are allowed into the market at any given time. 

This, LoopTT was told, despite the relatively large size of the market, officials were trying to ensure citizens adhered to ‘social distancing’ in the bid to fight against COVID-19. 

“We understand that places like the market are essential for many persons. So everyone needs to do their part, and it needs to start now. The fact that there are no local transmissions yet is a blessing. But you should get into a routine now, so that should that change, you’re already in a best practice mindset,” LoopTT was told. 

It was explained that wholesalers sell from 11.30 pm to 5.00 am, and retailers usually sell between 5.00 am and 10.30 am. 

NAMDEVCO assures markets still open, ramps up safety measures

Meanwhile, NAMDEVCO has assured the public that fresh produce is still available at markets, which have ramped up health and safety measures to ensure the safety of customers. 

The organisation shared photos of the Couva and Macoya markets showing sinks for handwashing and produce pre-packaged in bags to ensure proper hygiene. 

Tables and customers were spaced out at least three feet apart and the area had been cleaned prior to opening. 

NAMDEVCO said opening hours have also been extended to 2.00 pm at the Couva and Macoya farmers' markets. 

NAMDEVCO said in a statement that policies are being followed to ensure customers' safety:

"The National Agricultural Marketing and Development Corporation (NAMDEVCO) operates Farmers’ Markets across the country as well as Wholesale Markets at Debe and Macoya. While the Corporation has food safety and health measures in place at all its markets, specific measures have been heightened to deal with risks associated with COVID-19."

NAMDEVCO said it has done the following: 

1. Space allocations at all Farmers’ Markets are being expanded and in particular areas for customers to walk and make their purchases are being widened. This would reduce the risk of crowding and human contact among customers and vendors;

2. Similarly, spacing and walking areas at the Farmers’ Wholesale Markets are being expanded as far as practicable to minimize human contact and to avoid crowding;

3. All vendors have been advised of the basic Public Health measures that have to be adhered to given the COVID-19 risks;

4. NAMDEVCO employees as well as Public Health officers, from the Ministry of Health would be monitoring all facilities for adherence to these basic measures;

5. While COVID-19 is not known to be a foodborne illness, NAMDEVCO is emphasizing that usual good practices regarding the handling of produce throughout the food chain, are essential for public health and the Corporation is taking all measures for the prevention and control of any infectious diseases;

6. Farmers are being advised that produce that is usually consumed without cooking must be bagged before being offered for sale. This includes items normally eaten raw like lettuce, kale, tomatoes, cucumbers and all fruits, whether or not the skins are consumed.

7. Vendors are required to wear masks, gloves and eyewear while handling foodstuff;

8. Customers are encouraged through appropriately placed signage, to use hand sanitizer that is being made available at all facilities where sale of produce and other food products are conducted;

9. Consumers are being advised to properly wash all fruits and vegetables before consumption. We cannot overemphasize the importance of proper handwashing before, after and during food preparation activities in the home and workplace.

The organisation said that based on its Farm Certification and Monitoring data, approximately 1600 farms are currently in active production and a list of current food supplies based on the major food groups has been collected.

Details of agricultural produce which cannot be exported are also being collected by the Corporation, so that proper marketing programmes can be set up in the domestic market.

"While COVID-19 has affected the agricultural sector in some parts of the world, it also represents an opportunity to change production and business methods to adapt to new challenges and difficulties."

"Persons who are handling food and produce at non-NAMDEVCO markets are also being advised to make every attempt to wash their hands with soap and water every hour."

"Along with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land and Fisheries, the Corporation will be deploying its’ trained field officers to support the ongoing investigations and agriculture-based livelihood assessments, in its efforts to inform further response to alleviate the risks of COVID-19. We invite you to contact us through Facebook, via email and phone for any further information." 

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