EMPTY shelves at mini markets and a shortage of food aid now fill the days of about 10,000 people within the enhanced movement control order in Bayan Lepas, Penang.
With only a few shops within the zone allowed to open, supplies have been snapped up while those depending on daily wages in this lower middle-class neighbourhood are left in the lurch.
Factory operator Salmiah Ibrahim, 35, said the mini markets had no chance to stock up on essential food and now even food like bread, rice and instant noodles are gone.
“There are four of us in the family, my husband and two children. The food aid from the assemblyman’s office is insufficient.
“We tried to get food at the mini markets here. There is none.
I don’t know how we are going to sustain ourselves until June 17.
“They must allow suppliers to come in so that our mini markets can restock supplies for all, ” she said.
Vatsala Kalisparen and her husband Muniandy Perumal are daily wage earners who will not be receiving any salary until June 17.
“It is very tough to tide over this period. We are finding it difficult to feed our two children as my husband lost his old job as a machinist early this year.
“He was working temporarily as a storekeeper in a furniture company but cannot not go to work since the lockdown, ” said Vatsala, 38, who works as a line leader in a textile company.
Rohana Abdul Kassim, 33, an assistant nurse in a private hospital, was in deeper trouble because when the enhanced MCO was announced for her neighbourhood, she was in quarantine.
“I came into close contact with a friend who was Covid-19 positive.
“Many people went out to buy food in bulk before the enhanced MCO started but I couldn’t.
“Being stuck at home with three children and with no help forthcoming is a nightmare, ” she sighed, adding that her husband works in Perlis and is stuck there now.
Yesterday, Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) gave out 300 packets of essential food products to residents in the area.
Penang Bersatu chairman Datuk Shabudin Yahaya, who was at the Bayan Lepas Multipurpose Hall during the food distribution, said the Federal Government knew the people’s plight and would like to contribute to ease their
burden.“We understand that there are 3, 000 families in the zone and we will continue to aid these people during the lockdown, ” he said.
Also present were Balik Pulau Bersatu coordinator Zolkifly Md Lazim and state Gerakan chairman Oh Tong Keong.
Food aid is also being given through Bayan Lepas assemblyman Azrul Mahathir Aziz’s service centre for residents there since the enhanced MCO began on June 4.
State welfare committee chairman Phee Boon Poh said monthly financial aid through Social Welfare Department has not been disrupted during the MCO.
Those at the enhanced MCO zone who need aid can call the Social Welfare Department’s Southwest District office (04-866 8442/4378) during office hours for emergency aid if needed.
“We understand that people are facing difficult times, especially daily wage earners, and we want to help them, ” he added.
Phee said non-governmental organisations who wish to give aid to those in the enhanced MCO zone can contact his office.
“It is better to channel the aid through the department as we know the needy ones who should receive such aid, ” he said.
Penang Hindu Association president P. Murugiah pointed out that getting in touch with Social Welfare Department could be an issue, especially during the MCO.
“We received feedback about people not being able to reach the department even after numerous calls.”
Murugiah said creating a helpline would help serve the poor better.
Malaysia Hindu Sangam Bukit Bendera chairman A. Tharman urged the government to simplify the aid distribution process.
“There are several layers including approval from the state disaster management committee and Social Welfare Department.
“There is also a rule only NGOs from Southwest District can give aid there.
“It is imperative that aid reaches the people fast and cutting red tape will go a long way in easing the task, ” he said.
A total of 13 localities in Bayan Lepas is placed under the enhanced MCO after health authorities recorded 83 new cases within two weeks and the total number of positive cases exceeded 250.
The community infectivity rate was found to be 10.7%.
The localities are Sri Bayu, Bayu Tiara, Bayu Nyaman, Halaman Murni, Bayan Permai, Bayan Tiara, Taman Ara Indah, Kampung Bukit, Kampung Perlis, Kampung Masjid, Jalan Mahkamah, Kampung Pak Lah and Lebuh Kampung Bukit.