Traders: Closure of PJ’s Jalan Othman wet market could affect supply of fresh produce in Shah Alam, Subang, Damansara

Soo Wern Jun
Petaling Jaya City Council officers cordon off the Jalan Othman wet market from the public to make way for sanitisation work April 27, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

PETALING JAYA, April 27 — Closure of the Jalan Othman wet market here after a trader tested positive for Covid-19 could affect the supply of fresh produce in Shah Alam, Subang and Damansara, traders have warned.

During Malay Mail’s visit to the market yesterday, a poultry trader named Zakariah Sulaiman said the market, popularly known as Pasar Besar Jalan Othman, serves these areas as a wholesale market.

“Not only that, the housing areas around here also depend on this market for their fresh produce as there aren’t any other markets in the vicinity.

“Markets that do not operate in a building are not allowed to open elsewhere, so those in Sungei Way and some parts of Petaling are dependent on this market,” said Zakariah.

The Jalan Othman wet market was ordered to shut after a trader at the fish section tested positive for Covid-19.

It is also the second market ordered to be sealed from the public for at least five days after the Taman Megah market was shut down — a trader there had also tested positive for the virus —to make way for screening exercise and sanitisation works.

However, Zakariah said instructions from authorities regarding the duration of the closure are unclear and have caused confusion among traders.

“Why didn’t the authorities issue a formal market closure circular earlier? We only got a short text and many were not aware of this.

“This morning was a disaster when goods arrived at the market and we were not allowed to unload.

“For me, I ordered 220 life chickens worth over RM3,000 and now I have to figure out where to send the chickens,” said Zakariah.

He added that while some have been transported to a friend who sells poultry, the rest are stuck in the market.

“My contact was supposed to come and collect the rest but they still can’t find a lorry to pick up the chickens.

“I don’t know if they are still alive now,” said Zakariah.

According to the authorities, the Jalan Othman wet market trader had reportedly tested positive for Covid-19 on April 24.

“Why wait three days later to announce the market closure?

“These are market traders and this is a busy market. How are they going to trace who was in contact with the trader who had tested positive?” Zakariah added.

Satiya Seelan, secretary of the Jalan Othman wet market traders association, speaks to reporters in Petaling Jaya April 27, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Clarifying the situation, the Jalan Othman wet market traders association secretary Satiya Seelan said the trader who tested positive had already been in self-quarantine for a week prior to the market closure.

“Although they said the trader had contracted the disease from the Selayang wholesale market, we are in contact with the trader and he said he is not sure of how he got it or who he had been in contact with that infected him,” said Satiya.

Satiya too expressed concerns that there could be a lack of fresh produce for residents in the vicinity, with the nearest market located in Section 14.

“Even that is too far for one to travel to get to a market.

“We hope the situation will not worsen here,” he said.

Satiya, who is also a trader at the wet market, said it had been practising safety and hygiene precautions to prevent any possibility of the disease spreading.

“We sealed all entrances and only allowed all to enter from one entrance and we also practised social distancing at the market.

“There is also a council officer stationed to check the temperature of customers before they enter the market,” he said.

When asked how traders are coping with the MCO, Satiya said most have been encouraged to sell their products online.

“We need to be prepared for future situations that may not allow a crowd at markets.

“Even now we are trying to help customers get used to the idea of groceries being delivered to them,” he said.

Traders at the Jalan Othman wet market will be screened for Covid-19 on Wednesday.

The authorities have advised all 578 market traders to be present for the Covid-19 screening, making it compulsory for the 21 traders from the fish section to do so.

A deserted Taman Megah

Meanwhile, hawkers at Taman Megah said the closure of the market there has indirectly affected their businesses.

A hawker from Restoran Gembira said since the market was ordered to shut yesterday, they have seen a drastic drop in customers coming to eateries to pack food.

“The market not only serves as a provider of fresh produce, but it provides traffic for eateries like us.

Petaling Jaya City Council officers cordon off the Taman Megah market from the public to make way for sanitisation work April 27, 2020. — Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

“The market makes this place lively. But we’re anticipating a further drop in the next few days when word gets out that a positive case detected here,” said the hawker who only wanted to be identified as Chang.

“If we don’t work, we don’t eat. So our business will still run, as usual, just hoping that it doesn’t hit us so bad that we have to stay shut too,” said Chang when met by Malay Mail as he was preparing to close for the day.

Chang also pointed out that many other shops, including those that usually stay open all year long, chose to close today, with the streets nearly deserted.

Another worker at an eatery who requested anonymity said Taman Megah has never been this quiet.

“With the market closed, there isn’t even a fly in sight (a popular saying in Chinese to signify empty shops). Look at how empty the street is, you can actually find parking,” she said.

A worker at Pasaraya Megah Herbs, Ng Chang Liang also agreed that the herb shop has seen a reduction in the number of customers, and will have to drive sales online.

“Initially people were queuing up to stock up but it has quietened down,” said Ng.

He added that the shop is mulling shorter operation hours even after the movement control order (MCO) is lifted.

“I don’t think people would dare to come out. So that’s something we need to get adjusted to in stages and depend more on online orders,” said Ng.

About 60 Taman Megah market traders will undergo Covid-19 screening after a trader tested positive for the virus.

The trader who contracted the disease is believed to have caught it from the Selayang wholesale market.

As for the public who may have been in contact with both traders (Jalan Othman wet market from April 5 to April 18 and Taman Megah market from April 11 to April 25), the authorities have warned them to get screened at the Kelana Jaya SS6 or Taman Medan health clinics.

Last Monday, eight parcels of residential area surrounding the Selayang wholesale market saw the enhanced movement control order enforced in a bid to prevent further spreading of the novel coronavirus.

Both the Kuala Lumpur wholesale market and Pasar Borong Harian Selayang (old Selayang wholesale market) had since been shut, with the Kuala Lumpur wholesale market resuming operations last Friday.

In the latest development, another area, Selayang Baru was also been placed under lockdown on Saturday to track down wholesale market workers who may be infected.

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