KUALA LUMPUR: Businesses in Kuala Lumpur opened up cautiously as people returned to the city centre on Monday (May 4), the first day under Malaysia’s conditional movement control order (MCO).
Although dine-in is now permitted with social distancing measures in place, some eateries and coffee shops in Pudu decided to stick with takeaways, after weighing the potential increased revenue against the possibility of becoming the next COVID-19 cluster.
Mr Chin Seng Fatt, who has been running his coffee shop for more than 20 years, said the extra steps from taking down diners’ details to placing the tables 2m apart were not worth the extra patronage.
“If we were to serve 50 people a day, and suddenly there’s a case, what will happen? Is everyone going to get called in and quarantined because of one person? It’s better to wait and see,” he said.
A pork noodle seller at his coffee shop, Mr Mah Tak Yee, said everyone was waiting for the MCO to be lifted on May 12 to see if guidelines would change.
“You now have to reduce dining space to make sure there is sufficient social distancing. But if a customer sits at a table, it’s his until he or she leaves. How can we chase a customer away?” he said.
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Malaysia imposed the MCO to restrict domestic and international travels on Mar 18 with the aim of curbing the spread of COVID-19. Six weeks into the MCO, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced last Friday that the government would ease some of the restrictions to allow the majority of the businesses to resume operations.
Total losses from weeks of economic inactivity were estimated at RM63 billion (US$14.6 billion), he said.
Malaysia on Monday reported 55 new cases of COVID-19, raising the national total to 6,353. No new fatalities were reported, leaving total deaths at 105.
On Monday morning, Kuala Lumpur traffic police reported an increase of almost 30 per cent in traffic volume compared to Sunday morning, according to Bernama.
Frame maker Leong Yi Jen, who has been doing business in Pudu for nearly 25 years, said Monday’s reopening was also a way to assess the situation.
Customers began to call her as soon as the conditional MCO was announced, she said.
“We will have to see how the pandemic numbers go, because you see, after so many days of two-digit cases, it suddenly rose again,” she said, referring to Saturday's 105 and Sunday's 122 new cases - a two-week high.
Meanwhile, inside Suria KLCC, one of the Klang Valley’s premier shopping locations, many stores have reopened despite smaller foot traffic.
Mr Azmi Rasa, who supervises a tidbits stall in the mall's concourse area, said he and his colleague had arrived at 8am to sanitise their stall and check their stock, some of which had to be replenished as they had gone past their expiry date.
“We went into selling online during the MCO, and it was gradually growing. We reopen the stall here because it is also a mall requirement after the conditional MCO was announced,” he said.
“Actually, the crowd today is within expectation. The number of visitors had reduced since February when a person collapsed in KLCC, even though it turned out she wasn’t a coronavirus patient,” Mr Azmi added.
NOT ALL STATES DECIDED TO OPEN UP
Across the country, most states have chosen not to implement the conditional MCO as stipulated by the federal government.
Kedah, Sabah, Pahang, Penang, Kelantan and Sarawak have decided to hold off completely from easing MCO restrictions while Selangor, Perak and Negeri Sembilan said they would limit the number of businesses allowed to resume operations and restrict dine-ins at restaurants.
Mr Chow En Lai, who runs a car workshop in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, said he did not feel safe.
“My workshop is near a market where they found a COVID-19 case, and it had to be disinfected and all the traders had to be screened. Right now I’m only doing business on an appointment basis,” he said.