INCREASE in Covid-19 cases has taken a toll on businesses at the central market in Sibu.
The market was reopened on March 1 after being temporarily closed for over three weeks from Feb 8.
In early February, 47 new cases were recorded which forced Sibu Municipal Council to take drastic action to curb the spread of the virus.
Sibu Central Market Hawkers Association chairman Yiing Chung Ming said most of the 1,200-odd hawkers suffered a drop in business of up to 90%.
“Business is so poor that even those selling cheap items like bean curd and bean sprouts have fewer customers.
“Already I can foresee some elderly hawkers surrendering their business licence soon. The youth on the other hand are not interested in becoming hawkers, ” he said.
Yiing, who has been operating his cuttlefish stall for almost 40 years, has never seen people deserting the market before.
“This is the first time that number of market-goers has nosedived by 95%. We can understand that people are scared of contracting the virus and that is why they are not coming here, ” he added.
As for those who still patronise the central market, he said they had cut down on the number of trips from three to four times a week to just once a week.
“There are so few visitors now. How can we do business like this?” asked Yiing.
The hawkers are now trading on alternate days depending on their stall number. However, a number of them prefer to take leave for safety reasons.
Yiing felt that it would take another one to two years for their business to pick up.
A female hawker selling chicken, known only as Ling, also complained of poor business.
“I started trading this morning on an alternate day basis as per the council’s arrangement.
“As I anticipated very few customers, I did not bring many chickens for sale and probably less than half compared to normal days, ” she said.
This week, Ling will open her business on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Next week, she will operate on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Customers would need to pre-order the chickens, she said.
“I cannot bring a lot of chickens here or I will end up with a lot of unsold ones, ” added Ling.