Hawkers up for Covid-19 fight despite challenges

Hawkers and petty traders have seen their incomes take a beating with the Movement Control Order (MCO) which was imposed on March 18 following a spike in Covid-19 cases.

Food traders can still ply their trade provided they adhere to certain guidelines but those who sell non-food items have no choice but to cease operations.

Unlike most salaried workers who will get paid at the end of the month, these hawkers have been forced to tighten their belts without a daily income.

The Federation of Hawkers and Petty Traders Association Malaysia, which has over one million members, said despite the challenges, its members are committed in helping the government stop the spread of Covid-19.

“When our hands stop moving, our mouths will also stop moving,” said federation president Datuk Yow Boon Choon.

“But our members have been informed to continue to adhere to the government’s directive. Those who sell food items are still able to get some income but those who sell items like clothings or shoes have no choice but to shut down.

“I have told them not to just think about ourselves right now. The interest of the nation is much bigger than ours,” he said.

Yow, who is based in Johor Baru, added members were informed the uncertainty period will soon end and if they keep their stocks properly, there is nothing to worry about.

He added several state administrations had announced they will help hawkers who are affected as a result of the MCO.

“We have heard about it but we have not been briefed on the details. We hope whatever assistance will ease the burden of hawkers.

In Kuala Lumpur, Sri Petaling Hawkers and Small Traders Association chairman Tony Chew said the body has about 80 members, with most of trading at pasar pagi and in front of shops.

“They have been trading in the area for the past 35 years and this is the first time they have been asked to cease operations.

“Our members are adhering to the order but we hope there will be some form of assistance to cushion the loss of income during the 14 days.”

Penang Petty Traders Association president Ooi Then Huat said the association has about 2,000 members.

“We have been told that roadside hawkers cannot trade while others can only open between 5am and 7pm,” he said.

“I have told my members we cannot disobey orders by the authorities.”

Last Tuesday, it was reported that the Penang government said it will allocate an additional RM20 million incentive for small-time traders and businesses as well as hawkers who may be impacted by the MCO.

On Friday, Selangor Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Amirudin Shari announced a RM127.78 million ‘Covid-19 Selangor Concerned Stimulus Package’ comprising seven initiatives, including a deferral on land tax payments, benefits for frontline workers fighting the virus, as well as incentives for licensed traders and hawkers.

The Perak government had also announced that hawkers and small traders who have registered with the local government are entitled to a one-off RM500 aid. Registered traders need not apply as the amount will be credited directly into their accounts.

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