Living in Covid-19 hotspot


Foreign workers coming out of a block of flats in Relau. There is widespread concern among the community’s business people about the recent emergence of Covid-19 cases within factories in Bayan Lepas affecting mostly foreign workers.— Photos: CHAN BOON KAI/The Star

COVID-19 or not, business has to go on.

Folks in Bayan Lepas, Batu Maung and Relau in Penang, who live within the infection clusters called Bayan, Intan and Damar Laut, feel the fear every day of being infected but stoically carry on with life.

Near Jalan Kekabu in Batu Maung where many blocks of flats are largely occupied by foreign workers, a restaurant owner who wanted to be known as Kak Na, 36, said when the Covid-19 infection rate began spiking in her neighbourhood, she at first did not want to risk it.

“We closed our shutters and catered only to takeaways.

“But it had not been three days and we were already suffering so we opened the shutters again and resumed business as usual while following the standard operating procedures (SOP).

“The only thing we can do now is take extra care of hygiene and to wear our masks properly, ” she said.

Sundry shop owner Peter Ng, 50, said there was widespread concern among the community’s business people about the recent emergence of Covid-19 cases within factories in Bayan Lepas.

Customers seen waiting outside a barber shop in Jalan Kekabu, Batu Maung.Customers seen waiting outside a barber shop in Jalan Kekabu, Batu Maung.

“In this area, our businesses depend largely on foreign workers.

“They are the ones who will patronise us after work and on weekends.

“We cannot afford to put a brake on our businesses.

“Although we are aware that many cases involve foreign workers here, we cannot do much other than adhere to the SOP and to wear our masks properly.

“If we cannot earn to sustain, it is the same outcome; we cannot survive anyway, ” he said at his shop in Relau.

Kak Na sanitising the tables at her eatery in Jalan Kekabu, Batu Maung.Kak Na sanitising the tables at her eatery in Jalan Kekabu, Batu Maung.

At a residential area in Batu Maung, Taman Sunway Cassia Residents Association chairman Ibrahim Ramli said the residents living there are concerned as there are foreign workers’ hostels nearby.

“We have some 400 residents here, and we live near foreign workers’ hostels.

“We are worried because we may patronise the same shops or businesses as them. There is no way for us to avoid this.

“Many foreign workers live in the same house. There can be 25 to 30 of them in one house. That is crowded.

Ng hanging the MySejahtera QR code at his sundry shop in Relau, Bayan Lepas.Ng hanging the MySejahtera QR code at his sundry shop in Relau, Bayan Lepas.

Meanwhile, state trade and industry, and entrepreneurial development committee chairman Datuk Abdul Halim Hussain said his office had been working closely with the joint management bodies (JMB) of flats and apartments to monitor the situation ever since the conditional movement control order (MCO) came into effect for the Mukim 12 sub-district.

“We work with the JMB to distribute food aid and essential items to those under quarantine or the close contacts of those who contracted Covid-19.

“The JMB are the fastest to get contacts and information of those under quarantine, so they contact us when there is a need.

“We will then send food aid and essentials with allocations of my constituency along with donations by some NGOs and corporates.

“This is to ensure a smooth quarantine process and to reduce the movements of the close contacts, so that the surrounding residents can feel more at ease.

“For the Batu Maung and Bayan Lepas constituencies, we have a hotline that the JMB can call. We work closely with them and the Social Welfare Department to give out food aid.

“So far, we sent aid to some 47 units within Batu Maung, ” said Abdul Halim, who is Batu Maung assemblyman.

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