RAMADAN bazaars are back all over the Klang Valley after having to switch to the digital platform last year because of the movement control order put in place to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of the bazaars are held in the locations of past years while others have been placed in new locations.
StarMetro visits a few sites.
The light drizzle at 4pm on a weekday did not deter the steady stream of visitors at the Ramadan bazaar in Pusat Bandar Melawati, Selangor.
The crowd continued to swell and by around 5.30pm, the bazaar was packed with half-soaked customers who were shopping for food to break the day’s fast.
At the three entrances into the bazaar, queues of people stretched along the narrow roads as they waited for their turn to scan the MySejahtera QR code and their body temperature before being permitted entry.
Inside the market, several men in black vests were seen patrolling with a megaphone, issuing regular reminders for shoppers to keep their distance from others and have face mask on.
Several Ampang Jaya Municipal Council (MPAJ) enforcement officers were sighted too, doing their rounds at the site.
This bazaar behind the Melawati Mall, in the Hulu Kelang constituency, is the biggest of 23 bazaars under MPAJ this year, housing 104 lots.
It is managed by the Zone 1 residents committee.
Zone councillor Mohamed Radziff Hassan said seven representatives were tasked to patrol the bazaar daily to help with crowd control.
“We do not limit the number of people, but if we see that the crowd size is too big, we will stop people from going in, ” he said.
MPAJ Licensing and Entrepreneur Development administrative officer Muhammad Muhaimin Murtaza said five members of the department would be stationed from 4pm to 7pm daily at all bazaars under MPAJ, in addition to the enforcement officers.
He admitted that the physical distancing aspect was more challenging to enforce.
“People need to exercise self-discipline and be mindful of their distance from one another. We can advise, but it is up to them to practise it, ” he said.
Selangor National Security Council (NSC) director Faizatul Aini Mohd Adnan, who visited the bazaar on its third day of operation, said the standard operating procedures (SOP) compliance could be improved.
She suggested that two separate lanes be created at the entrances –-- for entering and exiting --– to limit contact among visitors.
The traders, she said, should help with dispersing crowds of customers in front of their stalls.
“Remind your customers to observe the SOP. You have a role too because you are the one dealing with the customers, ” she told the traders.Faizatul said although the rise in Covid-19 cases was noted, there were no plans yet to cancel bazaars in Selangor.
Any such decisions, she added, had to be taken up to the higher level.
Kelantan and Sabah have cancelled Ramadan bazaars this year, citing the increase in coronavirus cases as reason.
Trader Ishak Baharom, 58, who sells laksa, said he could only hope that the Covid-19 cases would not continue to rise.
“If cases continue to rise, and the government wants us to close, what can we do?
“So far, people here follow the SOP, they all wear their masks properly, ” said the father of five from Taman Permata.
Norasyikin Zakaria, 36, who sells ayam percik, hoped that the state government would continue allowing Ramadan bazaars in order to help traders earn an income.
The trader who got her 18-year-old daughter to help out at the stall, said she was a seamstress before deciding to try her hand at the food business.
“Not many people order clothes anymore, so I switched to selling food. So far, business has been good, ” she said.
On April 14, Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob
said mayors, local council presidents and their enforcement authorities were authorised to issue compounds to SOP violators at Ramadan bazaars.
MPAJ president Mohd Fauzi Mohd Yatim said he was awaiting further details from the Selangor government on the matter.
“This matter (issuing compounds to SOP violators) is not that easy to carry out.
“We need a detailed explanation from the government about the roles that need to be played by local authorities, ” he said during a visit to the bazaar in Pusat Bandar Melawati.
Visitor Azimah Asnawi, 22, said the SOP there needed to be tightened, noting that physical distancing was lacking.
“If the Covid-19 cases continue to rise, then Selangor should cancel Ramadan bazaars, ” she said.
Co-workers Syifa Al Waniy Abd Hamer, Puteri Nawal Atya Mohd Azly and Nur Aliyya Mohd Khairi, all aged 18 and had just finished their SPM examination, said they were excited that bazaars have made a comeback this year after being disallowed to be held physically nationwide last year.
“Everyone followed the SOP such as signing in via MySejahtera and wearing a face mask, but the physical distancing was almost none, ” said Syifa.
Another visitor, who only wanted to be known as Fahmi, 28, said people should come earlier to bazaars to prevent crowding at peak hours.
Bazar Juadah Ramadan at Simpang Empat in Central Teluk Pulai, Klang, is experiencing a smaller crowd.
It has 60 stalls, half of what it used to be in previous times before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.
Klang Municipal Council (MPK) was worried that people would flout the rules and so decided to limit the number of stalls to control the crowd at the popular Bazar Juadah Ramadan.
The bazaar started last Wednesday and would end on April 30.
The stalls sell cooked food and are spaced out one metre apart. They operate from Sundays to Thursdays.
MPK Licensing and Hawkers Department director Azhar Samsudin said with fewer stalls, it was much easier to implement the strict SOP to ensure physical distancing and monitor that people wore their masks properly.
“Over the first two days of operations, we received a lot of public feedback. Our department has taken into account the constructive input and improved the implementation of SOP.
“We will enlist four People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela) members and will have two checkpoints to better monitor the movement of people, ” he explained.
Former courier service driver Johari Bidin, 62, who had come to buy his favourite kuih pelita, said the stalls on the inner lanes of Simpang Empat needed to be reorganised for a smoother movement of customers.
Another customer, Hanim Simon, 45, said in view of high Covid-19 infectivity rate, it was a good decision to drop the number of stalls at Simpang Empat to 50%.
Azhar said based on observation, the movement of customers was fine from 4pm to 5.30pm.
“We noticed more people would come after 5.30pm and movement was tighter.
“Our plan now is to remove the stalls in the middle lane, involving some 20 traders, and place them in two rows outside the Hong Leong Bank and opposite the shops, ” he said.
Most of the traders told StarMetro that they were agreeable to the move, stating that it would give their customers space to line up in compliance with physical distancing.
Customer Moheen Abdul, 55, said the stalls involved in grilling lamb, mutton and chicken must be given spots that did not result in smoke blowing to other stalls.
During StarMetro’s visit, customers at the bazaar were seen making quick purchases and leaving the area without lingering.
MPK president Dr Ahmad Fadzli Ahmad Tajuddin said MPK had taken appropriate action to ensure full compliance with the SOP from the National Security Council and Health Ministry.
“Our observation at Simpang Empat shows that the people are aware of the dangers of Covid-19 and are giving their cooperation to help flatten the curve, ” he said.
With no cover at the entry registration points, the rain had turned the logbook into a soggy mess and the only contact tracing method for visitors was the QR code.
The temperature scanners also ceased to work after a while due to the damp.
Though it was clearly stated on a banner that children below 13 would not be allowed in, parents were seen carrying their babies and toddlers into the area.
That only a maximum number of 100 people would be allowed into the bazaar at any one time was also not adhered to as the crowd started to build up.
This was the scene at the Ramadan bazaar in Desa Petaling on a wet first day.
Located in Jalan 6/125D with 33 trading lots, Bazar Ramadan Desa Petaling organiser Khairul Ishak Maidin acknowledged that crowd control was a challenge as they only had three of the organising committee members on duty.
He said they could not afford the expenses of calling in Rela members to manage the crowd.
He further said that they could not find it in their hearts to turn anyone away.
“We don’t want to give customers the impression that they are not welcome, as this will affect business.
“As it is, many of our customers are lining up at the entry points and in front of the stalls despite an ongoing evening drizzle. How are we to tell them they can’t come in? They’ll be disappointed.
“In the following days, we will be stricter, ” he assured.
Khairul said three traders could not open shop because their canopies had collapsed under the heavy rain, which also caused flash floods in certain parts of Kuala Lumpur on the first day of the fasting month.
“The traders who could carry on with business only had about two-and-a-half hours of brisk sales before breaking fast.
“So, if we limit the number of visitors, they may not make enough sales, ” he pointed out.
The rental rates per lot at the site was between RM391 and RM430 for one month.
Though the country is still in the midst of fighting a pandemic, customers and traders seemed to have thrown caution to the wind.
Some had their masks pulled down around their chins as they were making purchases while some parents brought their babies who were too young to wear masks.
Stall operator Nabila Zaidi said she had no choice but to bring her two children – eight and three years old – to work as her husband was working outstation.
“I am just a stall assistant, so my wage is not enough to pay babysitting fees, ” she said.
Ayam percik seller Firdaus Ahmad Kamal Ariffin said he found it difficult to breathe amid the environment of constant smoke from his open fire grill and moving about briskly serving his customers.
“It also muffles my voice, so I had to repeat myself several times when answering customers’ queries, ” he explained.
Though traders said they were aware that the battle against Covid-19 was still ongoing, many were confident the current vaccination programme would offer herd immunity.
As the first day of trading also came with a downpour, the main worry of grilled chicken wings seller Amir Masaruddin was whether he would be able to clear his stock of 150 pieces of chicken wings sold at RM2 a piece.
“I was fortunate to sell all of them today.
“As for SOP, I will leave it to the bazaar organisers to take care of the situation, ” he said.
When contacted, a spokesperson from Kuala Lumpur City Hall’s (DBKL) Enforcement Department said it would assign some 500 officers and enforcement personnel to carry out crowd control and SOP monitoring at the Ramadan and Aidilfitri bazaars under its purview, alongside other enforcement agencies such as the police.
The officers will be assigned on shifts from noon to 8pm, 9am to 5pm and 4pm to midnight.
The spokesperson said 200 traffic wardens would also be sent to hotspot locations to help with traffic dispersal, especially during peak hours.
To remind the public on SOP compliance, he said vehicles would go around the sites to inform that an area was being monitored.
DBKL’s Enforcement Department also expressed hope that the traders and visitors would continuously comply with the measures set by the NSC in an effort to stem the spread of Covid-19.