Police to get tough at Penang’s Air Itam market

A policeman using a loud-hailer to urge members of the public at Air Itam market today that only one person in a household is allowed out to buy provisions. (Bernama pic)

GEORGE TOWN: Penang police will take more drastic action against members of the public and traders at Air Itam market after days of complaints about congestion there.

State police chief Sahabudin Abd Manan said about 70% of residents and traders in the area have complied with restrictions under the Movement Control Order, and police were advising the rest to follow suit.

“My staff and I have gone to the location with the Penang Island City Council and Air Itam state assemblyman Joseph Ng Soon Siang to look at the situation and the MBPP has ordered the roadside traders to stop selling as this leads to crowds gathering and congestion.

“Our checks found the situation is better than yesterday, the traders are complying, although not fully,” he told reporters after visiting the market here today.

Yesterday, the MBPP ordered the closure of roadside stalls at Air Itam, Bayan Baru, Jalan Perak and Jelutong markets after reports that many people were still going there despite the movement restrictions in force from March 18-31.

Sahabudin also said the crime rate has dropped by 70% since Wednesday, with only five cases recorded, compared to the average of 14.

He said 24 roadblocks had been set up in Penang, with patrols around the state to ensure compliance with the MCO.

The scene at George Town’s wet markets

A check by Bernama found that the public had begun to throng Air Itam market from as early as 5am and the place was congested within an hour.

At Perak Road market, traffic flow at the nearby roads appeared seamless for motorcycles and cars without the roadside hawker stalls. However, long queues were seen stretching outside the market as people waited for food takeaways.

At Bayan Baru market, loudspeakers from police cars could be heard blasting the MCO in four languages, and while there were no roadside stalls, the shops inside the wet market were crowded.

At Jelutong market, only vegetable stalls were set up by the roadside as the space for the wet market inside was occupied by stalls selling fish and poultry. It was the only exception allowed in the ban.