For nearly every year since 1999, street food vendor Ilyas Muhammad has been selling apam balik pancake at the annual Ramadan bazaar at Kelana Jaya, Selangor. Circumstances changed last year however.
All physical bazaars being banned across the country was the result of the COVID-19 pandemic which began in 2020.
Bazaars are allowed this year
In most parts of the country this year however, bazaars have been allowed to operate and business owners like Ilyas have lauded the move.
Ilyas said “I’m grateful to be back this year, it’s a crucial source of income for me.”
The 37-year-old added that “Ramadan does not feel like Ramadan without the bazaar, and if we stay committed to adhering to the SOPs (standard operating procedures to prevent spread of COVID-19), I don’t see why we cannot continue.”
Concerns that the Ramadan bazaars could exacerbate the COVID-19 situation began rising since a period of more than a week into the fasting month.
On social media, photos have gone viral over huge crowds of people standing in close proximity to one another. Fears have sparked as the decision to allow bazaars could lead to a surge in cases.
In Malaysia, the daily number of infections has recently hovered over 2,000 cases daily. This figure is more than the same period in 2020 when it was mostly in double-digits.
Malaysia recorded 2,875 new cases and 7 deaths on Thursday Apr 22nd, bringing the total infections to 384,688 cases and the death toll to 1,407.
SOPs must be adhered
Bazaar vendors in the Klang Valley say that if visitors and business owners adhere to the SOPs, it would be safe for bazaars to continue for the rest of the fasting month during an interview with CNA.
“I’m scared of getting infected, so whatever it is, we all have to take care and adhere to the SOPs.” says Ilyas
“Everyone has to wear a mask, (visitors must) scan the QR code at each store they visit and sellers wear gloves when handling food. So far, there has been no issue and everyone has complied with the rules.”
As there was a quota limiting the number of people who could be there at any one time, visitors were seen queueing to get in the bazaar.
Scanning a QR entry code via the MySejahtera application, measuring temperature and obtaining a number tag is required before entering for all visitors.
Some people appeared to be standing close to one another. This is in spite of signs and marking tape directing the flow of human traffic. When queueing at the more popular stalls, people were not really adhering to social distancing.
Siti Aisyah Yap, another stall vendor at the Kelana Jaya bazaar, said “This year, our business has dipped by around 30 per cent. But I don’t think we would have survived another year not selling at the bazaar, so I’m thankful we are here.” Cooling desserts like dadih and air kathira are sold by the 60-year-old.
She added “We are strict with the SOPs, we use an extra huge table to ensure we do not interact closely with any of our customers.”
The federal government has warned bazaars that they will be asked to close if health protocols are not followed.
Any of the 66 bazaars in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan will be shut if a COVID-19 outbreak happens due to lack of compliance to SOPs, including physical distancing. This is in accordance to a statement made by Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa last week.
Due to rising COVID-19 cases, the states of Kelantan and Sabah have banned Ramadan bazaars this year.
The Greenwood Ramadan bazaar, located in Gombak on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, was shut for four days from Wednesday due to “failure” to adhere to SOPs.
In a statement, director for the Selayang municipal council Mohamad Zin Masoad said that the bazaar will be reopened with tighter SOPs, including quotas for visitors, no entry for children below 12 years old as well as older peoples above the age of 65. There will also be designated lanes to regulate the movement of people.
“The Selayang Municipal Council would also like to remind visitors and vendors to not be lazy and careless in adhering to SOP to curb the spread of COVID-19,” he said.
23rd April 2021 23:00
This article brought to you by Legacy Times 传城时代