Markets: The new lockdown social hub?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

On 14 December 2020, the Netherlands announced that they were imposing a hard lockdown. Eight weeks later, there is talk about loosening the restrictions, but non-essential stores and cultural facilities are still forced to stay closed.

As a consequence, city life in Groningen has practically been shut down. Daily walks or grocery shopping has since become the highlight of the day for many Groningers. 

That being said, there is one activity that combines both taking a walk and doing your groceries: going to the market! And while there is nothing new about the market, one look at Groningen city center on a Saturday says it all. The streets are packed with people and groups, and the closer you get to the Vismarkt, the location of the market, the more people you will encounter. 

Sandy Rickal frequently visits markets. “Usually I am feeling more protected in the market than in the actual supermarket. I guess because the market is outdoors in the fresh air”, she says. A fair assumption to make, but the market in Groningen just hits differently: masks are not mandatory outside, and other corona measures such as 1,5m distancing are rarely being implemented by both the customers and the vendors. 

“Looking at this, I’d rather go to the supermarkets. It doesn’t make sense: masks and distance in the shop but not on the market? Masks are nonetheless the thing that is supposed to keep me safer”, Rickal adds. 

“I’d say I feel equally unsafe in both. The market has the advantage of being outside, but since some people don’t wear masks and don’t keep distance, I wouldn’t say I feel safer there”, Nina Valentini says, another frequent visitor. “The measures are good, however, I feel like they are not sufficiently enforced”, she adds. Valentini is one of few people who is actually wearing a mask. “It is still a place with close-contact, I just feel safer this way”, she says.

Valentini would like to see more initiatives from both the customers and the vendors when it comes to the safety regulations. By wearing masks themselves, the vendors could set a positive example that would then inspire customers to adhere to the rules as well. This might be the only way of keeping the markets and therefore the virus under control, as they seem to be the new place to be for Groningers in these grey days. 

The Lens contacted vendors from the Groningen market but didn’t receive a response before publication.

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