Enthusiasm wanes

Lee fears business will get worse with the stricter SOP.

AFTER a nine-day closure, Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur in Selayang reopened to public on Monday after undergoing a thorough sanitisation exercise.

However, the situation at the wholesale market will not be the same as before the closure because the government has imposed a stricter standard operating procedure (SOP) there.

Traders are not too happy about this as they fear the tighter SOP will drive customers away, resulting in a loss of business.

Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL), in a statement, said visitors could go to the market only from midnight to 6pm.

Apart from producing their identification documents at the entrance, both Malay-sians and foreigners will also have to show a negative Covid-19 test result before they are allowed to enter the market premises.

The traders and workers are also required to produce negative Covid-19 test results on top of wearing colour-coded uniforms within the premises.

A tent has been set up at the entrance of the wholesale market for the health authorities to conduct the RT-PCR test on traders and the Covid-19 antigen test on customers who have not been tested.

It is learnt that customers have to wait for about 15 minutes to obtain their results before they are allowed to enter the market.

The wholesale market was closed from May 9 following the discovery of Covid-19 infections among several seafood traders.

It was the third time the market had been closed since last year.

The first time was in April 2020, and the second was in January this year.Business at risk

Traders say the stricter SOP will only force customers to go to other markets and sundry shops to get their fresh produce.

“They would rather buy from stalls and shops outside the wholesale market than go through all this hassle. “Our business was already affected by the market closure and now it will get worse, ” said Kuala Lumpur Vegetable Wholesale Association vice-president Lee Chee Keong.

Association president Wong Keng Fatt urged the local authority to step up enforcement on pop-up stalls and shops outside the market.

“Most of the stalls and shops selling vegetables and fruits are illegal and manned by foreigners.

“Some do not follow the Covid-19 SOP and guidelines set by the National Security Council, which can become a safety hazard to customers and traders alike.

“While the market was closed, the stalls and shops along Jalan 2/3a and Jalan 4/3a remained open.

“We are licensed traders but do not get the same treatment as the stalls outside, ” he said.

DBKL has a strict policy whereby the application for hawkers’ and traders’ licence is only open to Malaysians as provided under the Wholesale Markets (2002) and the Market Licensing (WPKL) 2016 by-laws.

Licence holders at wholesale, public and private markets are also only allowed to hire Malaysians as helpers.

However, Pasar Borong Kuala Lumpur has been plagued by the problem of illegal traders setting up stalls outside the market premises despite numerous raids and seizures of stalls and goods.

Adhering to rules

Associations representing the market traders, including the Kuala Lumpur Fruits Wholesalers Association and Hoi Seong Fish Wholesaler Association, also play a part in ensuring that the SOP is adhered to.

They have even hired additional workers to check on SOP compliance among traders and customers at the market entrance.

Wong said the workers would also conduct temperature checks on visitors and ensure that they register with MySejahtera.

“Our workers are instructed to constantly sanitise or wash their hands and wear face masks as all times, ” he added.

He said the government should get all hawkers and traders vaccinated as soon as possible to ensure a safer environment in the market.

Hoi Seong Fish Wholesaler Association president Sing Kian Hock, who shared Wong’s sentiment, said the vaccination programme should be expedited.

“This is the only solution to prevent further closures of the market due to Covid-19.

“If not, more people will get infected, ” he stressed, adding that the latest closure happened after some 300 seafood traders tested positive for the virus.

“Although we started operating on Monday evening, only the traders who tested negative were able to open their stalls, ” Sing said.

Meanwhile, Kuala Lumpur Fruits Wholesalers Association president NM Chin said the government should adopt a more targeted approach in addressing Covid-19 infections in the market.

“Since the cases were first detected among fishmongers, the authorities should review the SOP at the seafood section.

“For example, they can reduce the number of traders in that section by introducing alternative shifts, similar to how Petaling Street traders are handling the situation, ” she said.

Chin added that the stalls at the wholesale market were cramped, allowing the virus to spread even faster.

“As only a few fruit sellers contracted the virus, they felt a full closure of the market was unfair to them.

“It also gives the market a bad reputation that will only drive the crowd away, ” she said.

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