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Malls and retailers want more clarifications on CMCO SOPs

PETALING JAYA (Nov 17): While appreciating the updated Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) given by the government, shopping mall operators and retailers are seeking more clarifications on their implementation over concerns of themselves or patrons being penalised.

Six associations have issued a joint statement today to urge the authorities to provide clearer guidelines on the SOPs -- the associations are Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK), Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA), Bumiputra Retailers Organisation (BRO), Batu Road Retailers Association (BARRA) and Masjid India Business Association (MIBA).

“Whilst there are improvements and clarity in some of the earlier SOP uncertainties, several other more practical and measurable SOPs proposed have not been adopted. These SOPs were to alleviate the subjective interpretations of enforcement officers, give confidence and certainties to both the operators as well as the public,” said the statement.

The associations noted that the increasing news reports of incidents of where people being fined RM1,000 each in arguable situations of differing interpretation of the SOP have caused unnecessary worries and panic, resulting in the public avoiding shopping centres and retail and F&B outlets.

“This has led to very low footfall and extremely poor business, further aggravating the dire consequences of more business closures and bankruptcies and further layoffs of employees,” it said.

To avoid such a situation, the malls and retail associations have posed questions and urged the authorities to offer further clarity and refinement to give certainty and remove all subjective interpretations, thus avoiding abuse and unfair harassment by public by enforcement officers.

1. Tracking applications and temperature test:

The owners of the premises are required to register and download MySejahtera applications, does this mean Selangkah and other QR codes tracking applications cannot be used anymore?

Temperature tests are only needed once when the visitors enter the mall from the main entrance of the shopping malls and not necessary in every retail shop. However, the SOP also stated that whenever visitors enter a fashion and apparel shop, they must take the temperature of the visitors.

Perhaps this condition is applicable for stand-alone shops which are not located in a shopping mall? If so, there is a need for an exclusion clause in this particular SOP to avoid contentious differing interpretations and unnecessary harassments and fear for both the operator and the public.

2. The one metre physical distancing:

- For fashion and apparel shops: With a one metre distance to the front, rear, left and right sides of a person, this is equivalent to an allowable space of four sq m per person.

We propose that the SOP adopt this four sq m per person as allowable loading so that enforcement cannot depend on visual judgement to determine the premises is “over crowded”.

The number of persons is derived by dividing the area of the premise by four sq m whereby the number of persons so allowed is to be displayed outside the premise and has to be controlled by the premise operator.

- For restaurants: We propose that the one metre physical distancing be the only criterion to determine the number of persons allowed on a table instead of a “one size fits all” maximum of four persons irrespective of the size of the table.

We also propose a single family unit residing at the same address be allowed to sit at one table and not be required to meet the one metre physical distancing criterion on the basis that they are already and always in close contact living in the same house.

We propose that the SOP adopt this four sq m per person as allowable loading so that enforcement cannot depend on visual judgement to determine the premises is ‘over crowded’?

The number of persons is derived by dividing the area of the premise by four sq m whereby the number of persons so allowed is to be displayed outside the premise and has to be controlled by the premise operator.

Currently, there is only subjective judgement of overcrowding and more severe, is that ALL patrons in the "deemed over crowded " premise are fined RM1,000 each. This is most unfair. What if a patron had entered the premises early when there was no crowd, but over time the crowd builds up?

Is the patron expected to make the subjective judgement call and leave the premise having not yet finished his meal and also decide not to pay the bill for the unfinished meal? It is more logical to use the mathematical formula to determine the loading density (area of premise divided by 4 sq m), display the density at the entrance while the operator's staff at the door who is taking temperature can also ensure registration of QR Code and be responsible for the count.

The onus is on the operator to prevent over-crowing and in the event this happens, then only the operator of the outlet should be fined and not all the innocent patrons.

3. One family as one common unit:

All over the world, the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions have taken into account the family as one common unit that have the same risk as they are staying and in contact with each other in the same home.

Taking that into consideration, the authorities have developed special accommodation for family units such as family group ticketing for cinemas, theme park visits, family dining in restaurants etc. Our current SOP has several conflicts of intent which is causing much angst and “disenfranchising and disintegrating family units”.

There is also a conflict in SOP conditions where on one hand two members may leave together, but allowing three in a car, and allowing four to dine on the same table. We believe these conflicting conditions need to be urgently rationalised and we propose the 1m social distancing rules to be the fundamental condition and that family units living in the same house should be deemed as a single unit in the SOP conditions.

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