GEORGE TOWN: The Federal Government should streamline standard operating procedures (SOPs) at public markets during the lockdown and allow hawkers operating there to open at 6am when the markets open instead of 8am, says Jagdeep Singh Deo.
The Penang Local Government Committee chairman said this would make the operating hours more consistent.
“Although they are on the same premises, there is a difference in operating hours.
“When people come to the market to get their supplies in the morning, they also want to take away food for their families.
“However, they can't do so at the moment, as the hawker stalls are only allowed to open at 8am," he said at a press conference outside Taman Free School market on Thursday (June 24).
Jagdeep added that both city councils in Penang have written letters to ask the National Security Council (NSC) to consider synchronising the operating hours.
“The Penang Island City Council (MBPP) had first written to NSC on May 31 to ask for permission to synchronise the operating hours.
“We received a letter on June 3 stating that SOPs must be adhered to.
“We have 35 facilities where hawker stalls are inside or next to public markets under the supervision of MBPP.
“The difference in timing has affected the livelihoods of 1,259 hawkers.
“A special meeting with MBPP was held on Wednesday (June 23), and we decided to make one more appeal to the NSC," he said.
Jagdeep also urged the NSC not to make blanket decisions but to look at the number of Covid-19 cases in each state before drafting the SOPs.
“I hope they can consider making decisions on a state-by-state basis, according to the number of Covid-19 cases.
“The public’s health and safety is of utmost priority but it must be balanced with economic security.
“I agree that we must be firm in this fight against Covid-19 and all SOPs must be strictly adhered to,” he added.
Penang Hawkers' Association president Datuk Lam Tong Ying, who was also present, said hawkers operating in or near public markets on Penang island suffered losses of up to 50% due to the shortened business houses.
“Most markets are already quiet with only a few customers left by around 9am to 9.30am," he said, urging the Federal Government to consider allowing hawkers there to open at 6am.