'Hubs of infection': how Covid-19 spread through Latin America's markets

Four out of five merchants at a major fruit market in Peru have tested positive for coronavirus, revealing shocking levels of infection – and prompting fears that Latin America’s traditional trading centres may have helped spread Covid-19 across the region. Peru’s president, Martín Vizcarra, said the infected merchants in Lima would be replaced, but stopped short of shutting down the fruit market, arguing that such a move could create food shortages. Authorities in Lima have left most of the city’s 1,200-plus markets open, carrying out spot tests and sending infected vendors – most of whom were asymptomatic – to self-isolate at home or at government facilities. But Zegarra worried Lima’s huge wholesale markets were already “enormous hubs of infection”, particularly Santa Anita, Lima’s largest, where some 30,000 merchants, porters and suppliers distribute and sell around 8,000 tonnes of food per day. Dozens of infections and at least one death have been reported among the market’s porters and fears were growing that the virus could already have spread; not only to thousands of retailers and customers but also to lorry drivers traveling between the city and the country. At Mexico City’s mammoth Central de Abasto, which receives merchandise from around the country and in turn supplies markets throughout the capital, at least 25 cases of Covid-19 and two deaths have been reported, although local media suggested the true figure was much higher. After a brief lockdown, Mexico has already announced plans to re-open its economy, but while Cornejo was sympathetic with the urge to get back to work, he feared that the worst was still to come from the coronavirus.