(Ouagadougou) The sprawling central market of Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, came back to life on Monday after a closure of nearly a month in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's a joy to see the market reopen its doors," said fabric dealer Boureima Compaore. "The situation was getting difficult for us."
As of Sunday, the poor West African country had reported 36 deaths from among 576 cases of COVID-19.
Around 40 other markets were shut in the city of three million on March 25, two weeks after the first appearance of the virus in the country.
"It's been a real hardship since the closure," said Souleymane Sawadogo, a clothing vendor. "Now we're relieved. We also hope customers won't be afraid to come and buy." He vowed that merchants would adhere strictly to "the most rigorous measures to keep the market open".
The bustling market offering produces, meats and spices, as well as all manner of textiles, hardware, appliances, computer accessories, motorcycle spare parts, and even artworks, operates every day from dawn to dusk.
Between 25,000 and 30,000 people staff the two-story market's nearly 3,000 stalls, according to the city's Urban Development Agency.
"The main market is the capital's economic lung," said Salifou Kabore, the president of the National Council of the Informal Sector, noting that it supplies many of the country's other markets.
Lockdown Lift is greeted with mixed reactions
The pandemic has hit an economy already challenged by a five-year-old battle against jihadist groups. The government is now targeting a growth of 2.0 percent compared with an earlier projection of 6.3 percent.
The country's borders are closed and big cities including Ouagadougou are under quarantine.
Strict restrictions to prevent a spread of the disease will still be implemented whilst law enforcers are on patrol to enforce measures.
Police and nearly 500 volunteers will be deployed to encourage public awareness and respect for anti-corona measures, he said.
Vendors and customers alike will be required to wear masks and no more than two customers will be allowed at a time at any stall, according to Halidou Sanfo, who represents vendors.
"We are all called upon to change our behavior. We can't go to the market as we did before, and we will make sure of that," he said.
Some passers-by expressed doubt over the reopening and have attributed the government's decision as a measure to prevent public dissidence.
"The disease has yet to be overcome," said secondary school teacher Awa Zoungrana. "The cases are only increasing."