Social distancing foils secret bids at Pasar Bisik fish market

KEPALA BATAS: There will be no more “whispering” for a while at the Pasar Bisik fish market in Penaga near here during the movement control order (MCO).

Individual buyers will no longer be allowed to whisper to the sellers their price bids for the fresh catches that are brought up shore.

The centuries-old tradition has been put on hold to prevent the spread of Covid-19.

At hand to enforce social distancing and to prevent overcrowding are police officers with help from the army, Malaysian Fisheries Development Board (LKIM), state Health Department and the area fishermens’ associations.

North Seberang Prai district OCPD Asst Comm Noorzainy Mohd Noor said the ban on whispering fish price bids, which took effect on Sunday, allowed for only fishmongers to be at the market complex.

“No retail will be allowed for individuals here. We know this market is famous for its fresh fish and many people will be here, especially during the weekend.

“In enforcing the MCO and to ensure social distancing is adhered to, we will permit only fishmongers into the complex, ” he added.

A check by The Star at the market showed a smaller crowd than usual and business was conducted at the complex under the watchful eyes of the police and army personnel.

A roadblock was also mounted at the road entrance leading to the market complex.

Staff members from the North Seberang Prai district health office were seen reminding the patrons at the complex to practise social distancing with their loud hailers.

Those who entered the market complex were also reminded to wear masks and to wash their hands with hand sanitiser or soap.

Police barricades could be seen around the complex that separated the seller and the buyer, and markers were put to ensure that the one-metre social distancing space between them was followed. Only 10 people were allowed in at a time.

However, despite the rules, a few fishermen and fishmongers could be seen indulging in the whispering act when dealing in the fish price, but they were quickly stopped by policemen on duty.

ACP Noorzainy said police would not hesitate to take action against anyone who defied the order, which will be enforced until the end of the MCO on April 14.

“So far, 60% of sellers and buyers have been following the rules; we will constantly remind and advise them accordingly, ” he added.

ACP Noorzainy also hoped the people could be patient until the MCO is over for life at Pasar Bisik to return to normal.

State LKIM deputy director Mohd Fauzi Ghazali said the idea to separate fishermen and buyers while dealing over the fish prices came after a discussion with stakeholders and government agencies.

“Prior to this, even after the first day of the MCO, they were still practising their old habit of whispering and crowding the place.

“So we decided to place barricades and markers at several spots where fisherman and fishmonger can be kept apart at least one metre from each other.

“They also have to stop the whispering when dealing over fish price, at least for now, ” he said.

Mohd Fauzi said LKIM would also ensure that only Penang-registered boats be allowed to dock at the jetty.

He said the same method would be proposed at the Kuala Muda jetty in Kedah where fishermen conducted their business through a similar whispering method.

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