After gastric flu outbreak, Pek Kio Market struggles with customers
Hawkers struggle to drum up business in aftermath of disease outbreak two weeks ago
The gastric flu outbreak may have gone.
But so have the customers, say hawkers at Pek Kio Market and Food Centre.
Hawkers whom The New Paper spoke to last Friday said business has fallen by about 30 to 50 per cent since the market re-opened on May 27, following the gastric flu outbreak two weeks ago.
Owners of Wah Kee Big Prawn Noodles said they made a loss of about $300 on the first day alone.
The couple who did not want to be named, said in Mandarin: "The tables used to be filled with office workers during lunch time, but there is barely anyone now."
Pek Kio Market was forced to close from May 25 to 26 after more than 180 patients with gastroenteritis were reported in the area.
A joint media release from National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH), Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and national water agency PUB on June 8 stated that "investigations did not implicate any specific event or food premises or stall that could be the source of the outbreak."
However, stall owners said that they were still suffering as a result of the outbreak.
Mr Bay, 65, owner of $2.5 Fried Rice, told TNP that there used to be buses that would take office workers to and from the market for lunch, but most of them have stopped coming.
This reporter spotted only one bus last Friday ferrying people back to office after lunch.
Mr Ong Eng Koon, 51, owner of Xin Heng Kee Chicken and Duck Rice, said: "People hear the name Pek Kio and they are scared now... I'm afraid I won't be able to pay my rental if this keeps up."
Hawkers said they are at a loss on how to bring customers back.
To find out, TNP visited Rojak and Mee Siam at Geylang Serai Market and Food Centre - the stall that was the middle of a mass food poisoning incident in 2009 - to ask how hawkers at Pek Kio Market could recover from the current incident.
The then-owner of the stall, Mr Sheik Allaudin Mohideen, was fined a maximum $9,000 in May 2010 for unhygenic practices at his stall and was barred by the NEA from operating a food business.
Mr Allaudin died last year from stomach problems.
When TNP visited the stall - now run by Mr Allaudin's wife Madam Hajara Allaudin and her two sons - last Friday, there was a steady stream of customers buying food from the stall.
The stall owners said: "As long as the food tastes good, the people will come back."
Madam Tan Chun Ruo, 45, owner of Pek Kio Seafood Delights, hopes this will be true in the coming weeks.
Her stall saw more customers last week.
"I hope people will come back as long as we keep our stalls clean and do our jobs well," she said.
- Additional reporting by Nurul Asyikin Yusoff
People hear the name Pek Kio and they are scared now... I'm afraid I won't be able to pay my rental if this keeps up.
- Mr Ong Eng Koon, 51, owner of Xin Heng Kee Chicken and Duck Rice