The Jakarta Post
Working daily in a place deemed to pose a high risk of COVID-19 contagion, some traditional wet market vendors have taken precautions related to the viral outbreak, as they worry about their health as much as they do their financial struggles.
Satibi, 39, has been wearing a face mask and gloves while butchering chickens during the pandemic, something he had never done since starting his business eight years ago in Rawasari Market in Cempaka Putih, Central Jakarta. He said he always sprayed his money box with alcohol before tidying up his cash during the pandemic.
“We are just human beings who are worried, just like others,” Satibi said.
Satibi said he was particularly concerned about being infected after 14 fellow vendors tested positive last week, prompting Jakarta-owned market operator Pasar Jaya to close down the market for three consecutive days for disinfectant spraying.
But even though he had been wearing personal protective equipment, he said he sometimes loosened his mask to breathe fresh air when no customers were around, as it was hot and stuffy inside the building.
He found that patrolling officers -- the market’s internal security guards, as well as military and police personnel -- were not present all the time to remind sellers and customers to implement health protocols.
"It would be nice if everyone in the market voluntarily complied with these protocols," Satibi said.
Siti Purwani, a staple food vendor in Serdang Market in Kemayoran, Central Jakarta, preferred to improve her immune system by consuming herbal drinks and vitamin C, aside from wearing a mask. She said she also relied on hand sanitizer, because wearing gloves would hinder her, for instance, when preparing bags of cooking oil.
She also demanded that the market management deploy more officers to patrol the area and ban customers that belong to vulnerable groups such as the elderly, children and pregnant women, after she several times spotted them among market visitors during the pandemic.
“Because [people] will listen better to officers without being offended, rather than to us, sellers who are ordinary people.”
Some vendors have been facing a dilemma since the outbreak hit Jakarta in March: Running their business on site could increase the risk of infection, not only among themselves but also market visitors. But these traders need to make ends meet.
About 3,244 vendors from 110 wet markets, out of more than 100,000 vendors in roughly 150 wet markets across the city, have provided a safer alternative to direct purchasing: a shop-from-home service allowing customers to purchase daily needs via phone call or text message. But many sellers have found it less successful because customers prefer to shop directly at the market.
Siti and Nainggolan, for instance, said they attracted only up to five shop-from-home customers per week.
Jakarta itself never fully closed its traditional markets during the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB), but restricted their operations by banning vendors selling non-staple food from operating in markets.
And now Jakarta is transitioning to the so-called “new normal”, gradually easing the PSBB and reopening the economy, at the same time trying to prevent contagion with heightened health protocols.
As of Monday, the Indonesian Traditional Market Traders Association (IKAPPI) had recorded 64 vendors in Jakarta having contracted the virus since the outbreak started, out of a total of 573 vendors nationwide having the virus, raising concern that new clusters may emerge as the country begins to ease the coronavirus curbs.
The IKAPPI has issued a health protocol for vendors and market managers that includes guidelines on the distance between stalls, plastic curtains between traders and customers, body temperature checks and routine disinfecting since March. It has also established a task force to disseminate the protocol to traditional markets nationwide during the new normal period and ensure their compliance.
IKAPPI chairman Dimas Hermadiyansyah, however, acknowledged many vendors nationwide were negligent about health protocols. He called on local governments to strictly impose the protocol to keep everyone in the markets safe.
“Now that the Jakarta administration is easing restrictions, we are worried that traditional markets will become [a source of] infection because human-to-human interaction is high there," he said.
Nainggolan, another staple food vendor at Serdang Market, said he sometimes had to remind customers swarming in front of his stall to disperse.
He said he was worried about contagion. Yet he said he had no option but to keep his business running during the outbreak that has financially hit most traditional vendors in Serdang Market as a result of fewer customers.
As of Monday, 23 vendors at Serdang Market had contracted the virus, which Nainggolan believed to have been caused by an abundance of people flocking to the market a week before the Idul Fitri holiday.
“Customer numbers surged by around 10 times. The worst was three days before Idul Fitri,” Nainggolan said, suggesting the market management enforce stricter control ahead of the Idul Adha (Day of Sacrifice) holiday in late July.
Following reports that jostling crowds at traditional markets remained, Pasar Jaya imposed an odd-even kiosk number policy starting on Monday during the new normal period. The policy allows odd-numbered kiosks to open only on odd dates and even-numbered kiosks to open on even dates.
Epidemiologist Windhu Purnomo suggested local governments issue more prevention measures at traditional markets with strict enforcement to prevent new infections, at the same time not putting aside their livelihood.