Shah Alam wet market stall owners fear income drop after city council’s Covid-19 regulations come into effect

Jerry Choong
Yellow tape is pictured on the ground in front of a stall in Pasar Moden, Shah Alam to encourage social distancing March 23, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

SHAH ALAM, March 24 — Yesterday was the sixth day of the movement control order (MCO) against the Covid-19 pandemic, and its restrictive effects are being felt far and wide, none more so than in the wet markets.

At Pasar Moden in Seksyen 6, the crowd of market goers appears much more subdued compared to before the MCO came into effect. Virtually all patrons have their face masks on, and many seem to be in a rush, coming in and making purchases before leaving as quickly as possible.

It soon becomes clear why, with regulations put in place by the Shah Alam City Council (MBSA) which stipulate that no more than 50 cars are permitted to enter the market’s compound.

To prevent traffic snarls, the main road leading to the market has been closed off, requiring patrons to drive around to the exit point at the far end, which has been converted into a temporary entrance point.

Some 20 to 30 MBSA personnel can be seen patrolling the market complex, ensuring that all regulations are adhered to by both patrons and sellers.  

With the second floor of the market complex shut down, only vegetable sellers, butchers, fishmongers, fruit sellers and convenience stores are in operation. A loudspeaker crackles every 10 minutes or so, reminding the public to maintain their etiquette and social distancing.

At the complex’s entrance, MBSA provides hand sanitising spray, with vigilant officers observing the patrons liberally spraying their hands with the solution when leaving the premises. For butchers, yellow lines are placed in front of their stalls to indicate where patrons should stand.

The precautions are seen as a bothersome necessity by the market’s long-time hawkers and stall owners, many of whom are praying for the pandemic to subside and the MCO not to be extended.

Fruit stall operator Khairul Anwar Salehuddin, 23, says some customers have taken to calling his business and asking if home deliveries can be made. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Khairul Anwar Salehuddin, 23, is the sole fruit stall owner in operation, running his father’s business as it always has been these past few decades. Although their profits remain relatively stable, he is concerned the limit on the number of patrons who can enter the market at any one time will eventually have an impact.

“Not many have come by as a result, but some of our customers have called to request fruits be delivered to their homes instead, which we try to oblige whenever we can,” he told Malay Mail.

Spice and sundry goods stall owner Eileen Yu, 42, has been operating her business at the market since 1985. She said this is the first time she has ever seen such measures being taken.

“I have been affected in several ways. For one, essentials such as bread are still being bought like always, but my other dry goods have seen a drop in buyers since the MCO and restrictions at the market came into effect.

“Though Covid-19 is no laughing matter, I fear the MCO’s extension will affect my stock. It is already a hassle to have them delivered here, and I will have to queue in long lines at wholesalers if I have no choice but to rely on them,” she said.

Vegetable stall owner M. Suhaimi Abdul Ghani, 62, is bracing for the impact of the MCO's plausible extension, understanding that it is a necessity to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Vegetable stall owner, M. Suhaimi Abdul Ghani, 62, said his profits have been greatly affected by the regulations. His daily revenue of RM200 on average has since dropped to as low as RM70.

“Of course, I am worried, but then again we must all make sacrifices for the sake of society and the nation. If we do not, this pandemic will go on to who knows what end,” he said, adding that he has been working at the market for 31 years.

Nasi lemak and breakfast stall owner Chek Kam Wafah Abdullah, 60, has had to shut down her operations for the public when instructed to do so. Now, she relies on selling food and drinks from her friends running other stalls.

“I can only say this has badly affected me. Even being given the option of only doing takeaways has not been able to make up for the lost customers, and who knows if MBSA or the Welfare Department will lend us a helping hand.

“I am especially fearful of the MCO being extended. Ramadan is next month, and I generally do not operate during the fasting period, so it means I would have at least two months of no income,” she said.

A 58-year-old poultry stall owner, who only wanted to be known as Abdul Hamid, says he has been running his business here for over 34 years, but that this is the first time it has dropped so significantly.

“I have easily lost up to 65 per cent of my income due to this. So I do hope either MBSA or the state government is willing to waive the monthly RM312 rental fee if the MCO is extended, or at least while the limit on the number of patrons in the market is in force.

“But I am curious to know why wet markets are being tightly monitored while supermarkets are not, as I understand large crowds are seen there. If you want to enforce regulations to prevent Covid-19 from spreading, do it to everyone and not just us,” he said.

Fishmonger Along, 45, is keeping a positive mindset as people will still need to buy their daily goods like meat, fish, and vegetables. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

One fishmonger said the limit on patrons and resulting queue of cars waiting to enter the parking lot has likely discouraged others from coming by.

“In my 30 years here, I have never seen anything like this. I mean, MBSA has even asked us to extend our operations until 4pm, but who would want to come by the wet market by then? At most we extend it until 1pm,” said the 45-year old, who only wanted to be known as Along.

Yet Along says he is keeping a positive mindset amid the sea of pessimism, rather than give into disappointment and despair.

“Look at it this way; come what may, people still need to buy their daily supplies of vegetables, meat, fruits and fish. So all we can do is gird ourselves for the long road ahead,” he said.


 

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