In Penang, crowds continue to gather at Air Itam market despite closure of roadside stalls

Members of the public ignoring the ‘social distancing’ guidelines at the Air Itam wet market, March 22, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Members of the public ignoring the ‘social distancing’ guidelines at the Air Itam wet market, March 22, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, March 22 — Crowds continued to gather at the Air Itam market as early as 6am today despite the closure of all roadside stalls surrounding the market.

The market was abuzz with activity as market-goers crowded around the various stalls selling fresh produce while ignoring instructions from enforcement officers to maintain a one-metre distance between each other.

The Air Itam market is one of the oldest markets in Penang island and is usually crowded even before the movement control order (MCO) was put in place.

People continued to throng the market after the MCO which led to the Penang Island City Council (MBPP) ordering all roadside stalls in the markets at Air Itam, Jelutong, Jalan Perak and Bayan Baru to be closed from today onwards.

Only fresh produce stalls within the market complexes are allowed to operate now.

Penang Police Chief Datuk Sahabudin Abd Manan having a tour around the Air Itam market, March 22, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Penang Police Chief Datuk Sahabudin Abd Manan having a tour around the Air Itam market, March 22, 2020. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Penang Police Chief Comm Datuk Sahabudin Abd Manan led a joint operation between police and MBPP’s Covid-19 Special Squad at the Air Itam market this morning to ensure all roadside stalls complied with the latest directive.

“Although there is still a lack of compliance in terms of maintaining social distancing of one metre, the situation here is about 70 per cent better compared to the last few days,” he said.

He added that he will be checking on other markets such as the one in Jelutong and Bayan Baru after this. 

He said they will discuss with the state’s novel coronavirus (Covid-19) taskforce on how to enforce social distancing in markets here such as what has been implemented in the Juru market on the mainland.

Members of the public are seen adhering to ‘social distancing’ guidelines as they buy groceries at Tanjung Bungah wet market, March 22, 2020. Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
Members of the public are seen adhering to ‘social distancing’ guidelines as they buy groceries at Tanjung Bungah wet market, March 22, 2020. Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Today, several other wet markets such as Tanjung Bungah and Pulau Tikus implemented measures similar to Juru market.

The temperature of those entering the markets were scanned before they are allowed into the market complexes and boundary lines were marked so that everyone has to queue one metre apart from each other. 

Sahabudin said the authorities will continue to conduct roadblocks and snap checks around the state to ensure compliance of the MCO.

He said the army will be assisting the police at the roadblocks, snap checks and also during their patrols around the state later today.

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