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Should Merida’s big mercados remain open? City will decide today

San Benito, Lucas de Gálvez markets were declared essential, but crowds could easily spread coronavirus

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Signs posted at the Lucas de Gálvez market remind shoppers of coronavirus risks. Photo: Punto Medio

Merida, Yucatan — Officials will decide today whether to allow the municipal San Benito and Lucas de Gálvez markets to remain open during the coronavirus outbreak.

The Merida sub-directorate of markets meets as Mexico enters Phase 2 of the pandemic, indicating local coronavirus transmission. In Yucatan, 23 patients are known to have COVID-19, the illness caused by coronavirus, and 18 more have suspicious symptoms and are awaiting test results.

Jorge Braga, speaking for the mercados’ hundreds of tenants, said several stalls have shut down due to low sales.

“We met on Monday with the deputy director of Markets, Fernando Aguiar Sierra, to discuss the issue, and some notices have already been sent to colleagues, but nothing has yet been decided because of the complexity of the issue,” Braga told Punto Medio, adding that many vendors are not taking proper health precautions.

More than 2,000 tenants work in the adjacent city-owned markets, normally attracting around 100,000 shoppers in tight quarters. Snack bars, for example, are still serving customers who sit side by side at the counters. Most restaurants that are still open are packing meals to go.

Mayor Renán Barrera Concha declared a few days ago that the markets would not be closed because their operation is essential to the city. If closed, the city must offer a plan to keep the food supply chain safe and intact and care for vendors thrown out of work.

Food vendors are asked to wear face masks and gloves, in addition to making antibacterial gel available, and at the markets’ busiest hours, security guards at the entrances are responsible for dispensing gel to visitors. The city has also sent city workers to disinfect surfaces at the markets, as well as playgrounds and parks.

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