Social distancing now the norm at wet markets around Malaysia on Day Eight of MCO

Opalyn Mok, Julia Chan, John Bunyan & R. Loheswar


Customers observe social distancing at the Taman Selamat Wet Market in Bukit Mertajam March 25, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, March 25 — It is day eight of the movement control order (MCO) and more people are complying with the one-metre social distance rule at wet markets and supermarkets around the country except for a small handful of stragglers.

In Penang, strict enforcement at the now-infamous Air Itam market has reduced the number of people entering at any one time, while shoppers can be seen queuing one metre apart.

Today, the market was abuzz with activity, a slight increase from Monday and Tuesday.

Air Itam assemblyman Joseph Ng, who checked on the situation this morning, said the market caters to the densely populated constituencies of Air Itam and Paya Terubong.

“There are about 50,000 registered voters in these two constituencies, so this market serves a high number of that population which explains why it remains busy despite the MCO,” he said.

Customers observe social distancing at the Taman Selamat Wet Market in Bukit Mertajam March 25, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Over at another market in Perak Road, though there were social-distancing markers, the entrances to the complex were not monitored so people could enter and crowd inside at will.

Small groups of people could be seen gathered around the vegetable stalls and while some adhered to instructions to maintain a one-metre distance, most ignored the instructions.

Penang Island City Council (MBPP) Mayor Datuk Yew Tung Seang, who checked several markets this morning, said discussions will be held with the Perak Road market committee on how the situation can be improved.

“We will get them to seal off the entrances to leave only one so that they can control the number of people entering the market,” he said.

He said the committee complained that many marketgoers in that area had stubbornly refused to comply with the one-metre social distancing rule despite being repeatedly told by the traders and city council enforcement team that patrol the market.

“We will have to get assistance from the police to warn them a few times so that they will comply. Sometimes, we need more stern action when dealing with stubborn people,” Yew said.

He said those who failed to comply could also be charged with obstructing a public servant from carrying out their duties.

Chicken traders are pictured at the Ipoh Central Market March 25, 2020. — Picture by Farhan Najib

Over in Ipoh, marketgoers were more disciplined as they maintained a one-metre distance from each other.

Ipoh City Council personnel conducted temperature checks on each person before allowing them into Pasar Besar Ipoh.

The Ipoh City Council said in a statement that there was a high level of awareness and adherence to the MCO at most of the markets in the city, including Pasar Tg Rambutan, Pasar Tambun, Pasar Gunung Rapat, Pasar Besar Ipoh, Pasar Pasir Pinji, Pasar Bercham, Pasar Kg Simee and Pasar Buntong.

Meanwhile, at the Petaling Jaya Old Town Wet Market, people also kept their distance from each other except for a few senior citizens.

A signboard reminding patrons to practise social distancing is seen at a wet market in Petaling Jaya March 25,2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Majlis Perbandaran Petaling Jaya (MBPJ) personnel were also present to monitor the movements of the people in the market.

They reminded customers to maintain a distance from others and vendors to only serve one customer at a time.

One MBPJ official, who wished to remain anonymous, told Malay Mail they will be on duty every day from opening till closing to ensure social distancing.

“So far, people here have been very compliant. The vendors are doing their part too. So, I think the message is sinking in,” he said.

One of the vendors, Harun Rashid, 41, said he had to pick up the pace when gutting fish so that he could serve customers individually.

“Got to get the work done quickly so people can come in and out without needing to hang around others too long. The way this virus is spreading is really crazy,” he said.

Over in East Malaysia, people at major supermarkets and Lido wet market calmly maintained social distance from each other.

Customers had their temperatures taken before entering Lido wet market and those who were not wearing face masks were denied entry.

People buying fresh fish at a wet market in Petaling Jaya March 25,2020. — Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Stalls inside the market were also set up further apart and while business is brisk, people were quietly buying their items and quickly leaving without loitering to talk to each other before the market, which opens at 4am, closed at 9am.

The Merdeka and CKS supermarkets have also made it compulsory for all patrons to wear face masks and have their temperatures taken before they are allowed entry into the premises.

Over at Pick n Pay, patrons were provided with hand sanitisers and only a limited number of shoppers were allowed at any one time.

In Sabah, wet markets are allowed to operate between 6am and 2pm, while supermarkets, bakeries and grocery stories are allowed to operate between 7am and 5pm.

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