Resources stretched too thin


A Rela member checking the temperature of a market-goer at the entry point of Jalan Penaga which is closed to motorists. — Photos: ZAINUDIN AHAD/The Star

AS the new movement control order (MCO) rolls on, authorities have found that weekend crowds at some markets in Penang are slipping out of their control.

At the Apollo morning market in Raja Uda, Butterworth, the situation became so extreme that police ordered the market to be closed for seven days from yesterday for breaching standard operating procedures (SOP).

North Seberang Prai OCPD Asst Comm Noorzainy Mohd Noor said that during ‘Op Bersepadu’ carried out by the police, they found that there was no physical distancing at the market.

“The market was too crowded which made physical distancing impossible.

“There was also no person in authority controlling or manning the entry and exit points at the market.

“Thus, the market was ordered to close for seven days so that plans can be made to rearrange the entry and exit points according to SOP.

“We advised the Seberang Prai City Council (MBSP) to prepare barricades to close small pathways as well, ” he said.

Shoppers maintaining physical distancing while lining up to enter the market building.Shoppers maintaining physical distancing while lining up to enter the market building.

However, the Apollo public market under the purview of MBSP will remain open.

At the Bagan Ajam market, it was also found that there were no proper entry and exit points and market-goers were seen entering the market using small pathways.

ACP Noorzainy said the market was told to rearrange the entry and exit points and MBSP had also been advised to barricade the pathways.

Meanwhile, shortage of manpower at several markets on Penang island is making crowd control difficult.

Traders at the Jelutong market were seen working hard to keep market-goers in check so that their businesses can carry on.

Market-goers keeping some distance from each other at a stall selling chicken along Jalan Penaga near the Jelutong wet market.Market-goers keeping some distance from each other at a stall selling chicken along Jalan Penaga near the Jelutong wet market.

Jelutong Market Association deputy chairman Khor Say Peng said the association hired seven Rela members to man the entrance and exit points but the manpower was still insufficient.

“This is especially so on weekends when people come to get their weekly groceries.

“People come and go at intervals and sometimes it is hard to ensure there is ample space between shoppers and to prevent them from crowding around stalls.

“As we collect only RM30 monthly from each stall here, we can’t afford to hire many people to monitor the situation.

“Today, two association committee members are on the ground to help man the streets, ” he said when met at the market yesterday.

Khor said along the streets, there were some 150 stalls and within the market building, there were 50 stalls.

“We allow only 35 people inside the market building at any one time but given the limited manpower, we have only one Rela member stationed at the entrance and exit.

Visitors shopping for essentials inside the market building. Only 35 people are allowed inside at any one time.Visitors shopping for essentials inside the market building. Only 35 people are allowed inside at any one time.

“The traders inside will have to help out and ensure customers are following SOPs besides doing their business.

“But Penang Island City Council (MBPP) has directed traders along the streets to open alternatively to reduce crowding.

“Part of the roads will be blocked off as well, including parts of Jalan Penaga and Lorong Ipoh from 6am to 11am in the morning.

“But from what we saw today, our manpower is still limited and we cannot afford to hire more Rela members.

“We hope more enforcement personnel can come and help man the streets, ” he added.

Rela platoon officer Alan Wan, who leads the Rela members to man the entrance and exit points at the market, said the crowd could be overwhelming at peak hours on weekends.

“The Rela team is stationed at other markets as well like the markets in Batu Lanchang, Pulau Tikus, Tun Sardon and Perak Road.

Khor: We hired seven Rela members but the manpower is still insufficient.Khor: We hired seven Rela members but the manpower is still insufficient.

“However, the Jelutong market is big and has several entry and exit points at different junctions.

“Therefore, manpower is essential to ensure absolute adherence to physical distancing, ” he noted.

Meanwhile, Batu Lanchang assemblyman Ong Ah Teong said the market association tried their best to come up with solutions to ensure ample space for visitors.

“However, on weekends, it is harder for them to control crowding as manpower is limited.

“If possible, we hope the police or council enforcers can step in to help.

“At times, it is hard for traders or market association members to tell off motorists who want to enter the blocked streets.

“We don’t want to burden the traders too much as they operate small businesses and rely on daily sales, ” he added.

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