GEORGE TOWN, April 14 — A hawker who sells up to 400 bowls of koay teow thng (noodle soup) daily at the Jelutong Market suddenly became “famous” and the object of speculation after rumours of her testing positive for the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) went viral on social media.
The post, complete with a picture of her at her stall, was shared on Facebook and through WhatsApp messages on Sunday and was linked to a Covid-19 case in an apartment block in Jelutong.
Toh Lay Kee, 53, said her business suddenly dropped by 80 per cent yesterday and instead of customers, she got suspicious glares from people passing by her stall.
“People would stop and stare at me and my stall and then look at their phones, as if to verify the picture they had was me, and then they would quickly walk away,” she said.
Since Monday, she was selling less than 100 bowls of noodles per day while the crowd at the Jelutong Market has dropped drastically.
She said she doesn’t even live in the apartment where the Covid-19 case was said to have originated, so she did not understand why she became the target of the fake news.
Toh later lodged a police report about the post being circulated about her and hopes the police will take swift action against the malicious rumours about her.
This morning, Penang Gerakan chairman Oh Tong Keong visited her stall at the Jelutong Market.
“The spread of this false information has caused the traders and hawkers in this market to suffer a drop in business by 70 per cent in a day,” he said.
He said the authorities are now busy combating the spread of the disease and yet the public, particularly those on social media, are spreading false information and fake news that affect others.
“We need an anti-fake news law to stop people from spreading fake news and false information that could lead to panic among the people and in this case, had victimised a hawker,” he said.
He hoped the public will be more discerning by verifying the information they receive before forwarding it to others.
Batu Lanchang assemblyman Ong Ah Teong and Jelutong MP RSN Rayer also visited the market this morning.
He bought several bowls of noodles from Toh as a show of support and hoped the public will stop forwarding false news that had impacted the traders and hawkers in the market.