Shopping malls, stores and roadside stalls in Penang reopen under strict SOPs

A general view of the Gurney Paragon mall in George Town May 8, 2020. ― Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin
A general view of the Gurney Paragon mall in George Town May 8, 2020. ― Pictures by Sayuti Zainudin

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GEORGE TOWN, May 8 — Half of the roadside stalls at four major wet markets in Penang were allowed to reopen today, much to the relief of the traders who had been without income for almost two months.

Despite the initial confusion over which stalls were allowed to run on a daily rotation basis, most traders have accepted that they may only operate a few days each week.

Ong Yue Er, who sells general items such as batteries, torch light and clocks, said she was allowed to open two to three times a week on a rotation basis with other stalls.

“We have to comply with this requirement and I am just glad that at least I can open my stall now,” she said.

A salesperson sanitises her work area at a shop in Gurney Paragon, George Town May 8, 2020.
A salesperson sanitises her work area at a shop in Gurney Paragon, George Town May 8, 2020.

She said it would be difficult to control if all stalls are allowed to open together as people would crowd around them.

“So this is for the best, at least we can also remind our customers not to stand too close together,” she said.

The roadside stalls along the road at Air Itam Market were spaced apart and despite being reminded to stay at a distance from each other, market-goers can be seen standing close together at some of the stalls.

Air Itam assemblyman Joseph Ng said the roadside food and fruit stalls have requested to be allowed to operate daily as their stocks were highly perishable while stalls selling non-food items can rotate on a daily basis.

“I have discussed with the city council to allow the food and fruit stalls to be given priority to operate daily as their items are perishable and could not keep,” he said.

Meanwhile, over at the shopping malls, most of the shops prepared for the reopening with the one-metre social distance markers and preparation of hand sanitisers.

Gurney Paragon executive director Fong Yin Sian said between 80 and 90 per cent of the shops in the mall are reopening today except for the cinema, hair and beauty salons that are not allowed to open.

“We have informed our tenants to comply with the SOPs before they reopen and most have complied with the requirement,” she said.

She said the mall is now open from 10am to 10pm daily but the tenants are allowed to open for a minimum of eight hours each day at their own time.

A cleaner sanitisers the hand rails of the escalator in Gurney Paragon, George Town May 8, 2020.
A cleaner sanitisers the hand rails of the escalator in Gurney Paragon, George Town May 8, 2020.

The mall also takes the temperature of each customer entering the mall, either at its entrances or from the carpark, and provides automatic hand sanitisers at all entry points.

“We also limit the number of customers entering the toilet and we sanitise the hand rails and other touch points every two hours,” she said.

One of the shops, TWG Tea, records the name of its customers and their contact numbers while limiting the number of customers at its store.

Its manager Mohamed Hafiz Zaki said they started preparing their store yesterday to ensure they comply with the SOP.

“We will check the customer’s temperature and record their details while making sure we don’t allow more than five customers in,” he said.

Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to reporters after visiting Gurney Paragon today, May 8, 2020.
Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow speaks to reporters after visiting Gurney Paragon today, May 8, 2020.

Earlier, Penang Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow visited the mall and said many businesses will now have to adapt to the new normal of conducting business while adhering to strict SOPs.

He said this is to ensure the safety of customers and hoped Penangites will comply with these SOPs and continue to maintain a social distance when at public places.

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