Putting brakes on busy market


Road closure: Barricades have been put up at two road junctions to prevent movement of vehicles in the vicinity of the Ayer Itam market in Penang. — LIM BENG TATT/The Star

FOR the second time in less than a year, there was no hustle and bustle of big crowds and traffic near the popular Ayer Itam market in Penang.

Like a replay of the first movement control order (MCO) last March, everything was calm and orderly as the police cordoned off part of the road near the market.

Although there was a slight inconvenience to roadside traders and market-goers, this move was necessary to contain the spread of Covid-19.

Businessman Teh Yan Chye, 67, said he came to the market to get some food items for his family.

“Since I live nearby, I dropped by to buy some vegetables. Although I had to park my car quite far and walk to the market, I understand the move was necessary to control the crowd, ” he said yesterday.

Police manning a barricade put up in front of the Ayer Itam market in Penang. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The StarPolice manning a barricade put up in front of the Ayer Itam market in Penang. — Photos: LIM BENG TATT/The Star

Roadside trader Ang Hock Lai, 67, said his business had been affected by 20% to 30%.

“Due to the road closure, we do not have the usual crowd.

“Usually, my customers come in their motorcycles to take away their food. Now, they can’t, ” he said.

Fruit seller Lian Boon Cheng, 50, said his business also dropped by half.

“Some customers decided not to come here as they have to park their car quite far away from the market.

“I just replenished my stock and I am worried that if I cannot sell all my fruits, they may turn bad, ” he said.

Businessman Teh Yan Chye, 67, walking on a road empty of the usual heavy traffic near the Ayer Itam market in Penang.Businessman Teh Yan Chye, 67, walking on a road empty of the usual heavy traffic near the Ayer Itam market in Penang.

George Town OCPD Asst Comm Soffian Santong said they put up barricades – one at the junction of Jalan Ayer Itam and Jalan Balik Pulau and another at the junction of Jalan Paya Terubong and Jalan Kampung Pisang – to prevent movement of vehicles in the vicinity of the market.“Market-goers can park their vehicles outside the barricades and walk to the market, ” he said.

He also said the road closure would be from 6am to 2pm daily instead of a 24/7 closure enforced during the first round of the MCO in March.

Meanwhile, Ayer Itam assemblyman Joseph Ng said only around 20 to 30 roadside stalls selling essential items such as food were allowed to operate.

“Previously, we had around 90 permanent and mobile stalls. I urge the public to adhere to the standard operating procedures to break the chain of Covid-19 transmission.

“MBPP officers came and briefed the traders on Thursday and identified stalls that can operate during the MCO, ” he said.

Ng hoped that traders selling non-essential goods would return to work after the situation has improved.

Market-goers buying daily essential items inside the Ayer Itam market.Market-goers buying daily essential items inside the Ayer Itam market.

“Many of them have purchased new stock and decorative items for the Chinese New Year, ” he said.

Over at the City Hall, state local government committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said the public with any inquiries about the SOP could contact both the city councils.

“In Penang, we are open to inquiries by the affected communities.

“Some businesses are not sure if they are allowed to operate or not during the MCO.

“We will forward their enquiries to the National Security Council for clarification, ” said Jagdeep before distributing dry food items to 1,000 MBPP frontliners.

For inquiry, the public can call MBPP hotline at 04-263 7000, or Whatsapp them at 016-200 4082.

In Butterworth, the public can call 04-549 7470 for matters related to assessment tax, 04-549 7685 for business licence-related inquiries, or the MBSP call centre at 04- 269 6969 from Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm.

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