Bad publicity affected our business, claim market traders

Only a handful of market goers at the Pulau Tikus market after rumours of positive Covid-19 cases at their market scared customers away. (April 12,2021) - LIM BENG TATT/The Star

TRADERS at Pulau Tikus market in Penang are crying foul as their business is badly affected due to rumours of many positive Covid-19 cases detected at the market that went viral online since a week ago.

The number of customers dropped tremendously with only a handful of market-goers even on a weekend.

On weekdays, the market was rather empty at around 9am.

After taking a break from work for a week, economy noodle seller Tan Thang Kiak, 58, was shocked to find out that she was rumoured to have been a Covid-19 patient.

“Since business has been slow lately, I decided to close my shop

for a week. I cannot earn much as ingredients are expensive and I do not have enough customers.

“Therefore, my daughter suggested that I take a break and rest at home.

“I was shocked that people started spreading rumours that I did not operate as I was down with Covid-19.

“I reopened my stall on Sunday but business dropped by 80%.

“Prior to the rumour, people had to queue up to buy my noodles and the market was always crowded. Now, I have to send my noodles to an old folk home as I can’t sell them all, ” said Tan, who has been selling economy noodles for over 10 years.

Fruit and vegetable seller Chin Hock Moy, 63, said the market has been empty since a week ago.

“After the message went viral, the number of market-goers has decreased and business has dropped by at least half.

“Customers come, pick the items that they need and quickly leave after that.

“Since my items are perishable, I have no choice but to take less stock from my supplier, ” said Chin, who has been selling fruits and vegetables for over 40 years.

Fishmonger Nazri Maidin, 42, said his business dropped by 50% for the past one month.

“There are only a few people in the market and people are scared to come after the rumour went viral.

“I have been selling seafood for the past eight years and this is the first time business has been so bad.

“I signed a contract with my friend and I have 30 boat loads of seafood every day. I still have to accept their catch although my business has been badly affected.

“To make sure that I sell all my products, I have to look for ways such as selling them at cheaper prices and lowering my profit margin, ” he said.

Rela personnel L.H. Ooi, 64, said he has been on duty from 6am to 12.30pm daily since the movement control order started last year.

“My colleagues and I made sure that market-goers check in using the MySejahtera app and get their temperature scanned.

“For those who do not have a smartphone, they will register themselves in our logbook.

“We do not allow children below 12 years old to enter the market, ” he said.

It is learnt that one of the market traders has to be quarantined as his son was tested positive and caught it from one of the workplace clusters in Penang.

Meanwhile, Pulau Tikus assemblyman Chris Lee urged the public to follow the standard operating procedures and not cause unnecessary panic with rumours.

“All precautionary measures have been taken to ensure that the place is safe.

“I have yet to receive any confirmation from the health authorities despite my office constantly following up with them.

“However, I have gone ahead to sanitise the place and there have been no directives to close, ” he said.

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