San Juan market shut over lone COVID-19 case
MANILA, Philippines — San Juan City’s main public market was closed indefinitely on Wednesday after a vendor tested positive for the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19), touching off an aggressive testing and disinfection operation carried out by the city government.
The closure of Agora Public Market came on the heels of a similar shutdown at Marikina City’s central market, where at least 29 workers were infected. The incidents were a sobering reminder of the threat posed by COVID-19 even as restrictions eased considerably in Metro Manila.
It also spotlighted the tough balancing act required of local governments in operating markets, which are one of the cardinal pillars of public life but also a high-risk area for the spread of COVID-19 that itself is believed to have originated from a market in Wuhan City, China.
Mayor Francis Zamora told reporters that the market would not reopen until all 644 vendors and employees were subjected to swab tests by the local government. The male vendor who tested positive was already being treated at an unspecified hospital, he added.
“All his close contacts have already been isolated and swabbed as well,” Zamora said. “We will make sure that the results of the testing are issued quickly so the market can operate again.”
In a statement, Zamora said only those who test negative would be allowed to report to the market upon its reopening. Those who test positive would be isolated and permitted to return only after the city health office issues clearance forms indicating they are fit to work.
Agora Market is already closed twice a week — Wednesdays and Sundays — for cleaning and sanitation, so no significant disruption occurred when the shutdown was announced. But the mayor projected it would remain closed at least until this Sunday.
San Juan has generally been a rare bright spot in the battle to contain COVID-19 in Metro Manila. It went through almost the whole month of June without any virus-related deaths, a significant milestone for a city that had been a national epicenter when cases started peaking in March.
Marikina was forced to close portions of its market in mid-June after all 2,000 market workers underwent rapid tests that yielded 66 positives. Confirmatory testing showed there were 29 confirmed COVID-19 cases, which the city traced to a market goer from a neighboring province.