Markets Reopen Slowly as Covid-19 Fears Persist

3 min read
A customer at Boeng Keng Kang market scans the Stop Covid-19 QR code before entering during a limited reopening on May 24, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)

At O’Russei market, only about 40 of 6,200 stalls reopened on Monday morning on the first day of the return of public markets citywide. At Boeng Keng Kang market, about 76 of 1,400 stalls reopened, according to market managers.

Some vendors spent Monday cleaning their stalls in anticipation of opening for sales on Tuesday, but amid persistent Covid-19 fears as well as precautions — which restrict reopenings to only sellers of essential foodstuffs — the return of market activity was a trickle rather than a rush.

Tep Sareth, 43, who works as a cleaner on Koh Pich, said she came to Boeng Keng Kang market to buy second-hand work clothes for her son. The market usually has cheap and good quality clothes, she said.

But she went home empty-handed, not realizing that it was only food sellers allowed to reopen.

“If the disease [continues to] decrease, I will be happy again. I can enjoy shopping, buy something to eat. But right now I am frustrated, as I came here and got nothing,” Sareth said.

Market manager Ek Nimol said about 200 of 1,400 stalls had been granted permission to reopen, but only 76 of them had on the first day.

Most of the market’s entrances are blocked off, and just 50 shoppers are allowed in per hour after testing their temperature.

“We have some confidence. It doesn’t mean [that when] we do that, there will be no transmissions, 100 percent, but it’s work to help cut a lot of [transmissions],” Nimol said.

Huon Sambo, 36, a fish seller, said he appreciated the health measures, but wondered if the market would be able to remain open.

“That’s what we still worry about, because we are afraid that if too many cases emerge, [the markets] could be closed again,” Sambo said.

A list of vendors allowed to participate in the reopening of O'Russey market after the Covid-19 closures on May 24, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)
A list of vendors allowed to participate in the reopening of O’Russei market after the Covid-19 closures on May 24, 2021. (Tran Techseng/VOD)

At O’Russei market, manager Hat Vanthy said 983 stalls were allowed to reopen, but only 40 had as of Monday morning. Customers were limited to 100 per hour, he added.

Hang Sivanna, a 64-year-old sausage vendor, said she had cleaned her stall on Monday to reopen on Tuesday.

Sivanna, who lives in Pur Senchey district’s Choam Chao III commune, said she was worried about Covid-19 but needed the income.

“I am afraid too, when I go back. I am braving [the risk] in coming back. But I still go in. It’s our normal business. If we don’t come to do it, where should we go?”

Jin An, a 58-year-old noodle vendor, said he was not yet allowed to reopen. He had also not seen many customers arrive on Monday, he said.

“When we are all allowed to reopen, I will be happy,” An said.

O’Russei market was one of the early hotspots of the “February 20” cluster, which surged in April and caused a citywide lockdown and curfew. The curfew was lifted over the weekend, while markets were allowed to reopen on Monday.

City Hall reported 245 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, a slight rise from last week, but down from a peak of over 500 cases a day in the first week of May.

A 36-year-old bean seller who only gave her name as Hung said she had stayed home since early April and was struggling with finances.

Her stall was not allowed to reopen, but she was allowed in to remove her goods to try to sell elsewhere.

The mother of two said she would be worried about contracting Covid-19, but it was her only way to support her family.

“When [a market] reopens, it faces the risk of infections. And if we can open for trade, we are at risk too. [But] we need to do business to feed ourselves. I do not know which one is better.”

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