GEORGE TOWN, March 30 — The road leading to Air Itam market here was closed from 6am today, effectively reducing the number of patrons at the market by 70 per cent from yesterday.
The authorities cordoned off Jalan Paya Terubong from the Air Itam police station until the junction of Jalan Kampung Pisang, and only allowed the public to walk the 200m to the market complex.
Northeast District Police chief Assistant Commissioner Soffian Santong, who was at the market since 6.45am, said the road will remain closed throughout the movement control order (MCO) period and will not be open to traffic even in the afternoons.
“There were numerous reports that the people in Air Itam market had failed to practise social distancing so we have to resort to closing this road and have fixed only one entry and one exit point,” he told reporters after checking the crowd control in the market.
The market came under attention after social media posts showed the remaining crowds despite the MCO.
Soffian said the authorities resorted to the road closure at they could not halt activity at the market as it caters to residents in Air Itam, Air Putih, Paya Terubong and Farlim.
“If we close it down, the crowd may spillover in other smaller markets and worsen the situation,” he said.
It is believed that the market caters to at least 30,000 residents in the vicinity.
Soffian said there are at least 60 personnel from the police, Penang Island City Council (MBPP), armed forces and Rela on duty around the market to ensure the crowd adheres to social distancing rules.
As for the other two markets in Jelutong and Perak Road, he said the situation at both locations were still under control.
He said there was no need to close the roads to the Jelutong and Perak Road markets.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and if there people fail to follow social distancing, we might follow the same method as Air Itam,” he said.
Yesterday, the MBPP shut down the operations of the Kompleks Sri Aman market in Paya Terubong for failing to comply with social distancing requirements under the MCO.