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Suspend HIDE information announcement immediately, shopping mall operators and retailers tell MOSTI

KUALA LUMPUR (May 8): Shopping mall operators and retailers across Malaysia told the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation (MOSTI) today to immediately suspend announcements of information derived from the Hotspot Identification by Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system on claims that HIDE's Covid-19 hotspot listing data is inaccurate.

The Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association and Malaysia Retail Chain Association had in a joint statement today urged MOSTI to immediately suspend the HIDE information announcement until the information to be released is accompanied by a clear, accurate and precise basis.

"Merely listing premises in isolation of supporting information is baseless and is not useful in curbing the spread of the disease.

"There must be weightage in the listing based on population, density, ratio of infections as a percentage of the total visitations etc,” they said.

It was reported that the HIDE system developed by Bank Negara Malaysia and the Health Ministry is aimed at giving early warning to prevent spikes in the number of Covid-19 infections by using data from the MySejahtera application.

The statement by the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association and Malaysia Retail Chain Association is in response to news reports today, quoting Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, that premises listed under the HIDE system as potential Covid-19 risk locations will be ordered to be closed for three days effective immediately.

It was reported that the government had earlier produced the first HIDE list of business premises identified as Covid-19 hotspots with potential risk to spread the pandemic.

According to the joint statement, as the HIDE data uses information from the MySejahtera system, places where patrons are more inclined to use manual recording are automatically not taken into account, hence further distorting the accuracy of the HIDE information on hotspots.

Thus, places without MySejahtera-based records are riskier locations and potential Covid-19 hotspots, the statement claimed.

"It would be a complete irony and a huge peril if HIDE is unable to identify these places, simply due to the lack of such data. Ironically, this will inadvertently direct and encourage the public to patronise such poorly regulated places with the misguided belief that these places are actually much safer,” the statement said.

According to the statement, shoppers’ safety is a top priority at shopping malls and with all required standard operating procedures (SOPs) in place including enhanced and regular sanitisation measures, malls are safe places to visit.

The statement claimed that the HIDE assessment is grossly unfair to shopping malls and retailers which have invested so much on safety and control and adhered to Covid-19-driven SOPs as determined by the authorities.

"The earnest and diligent adherence to the SOPs at shopping malls would appear to have, unfortunately, back-fired and inadvertently punished the malls.

"We understand that the national [Covid-19] infection rate is 1.3% and from our own statistics, shopping malls’ infection rate is significantly below the national average,” the statement claimed.

Citing data from the Health Ministry, the statement said the ministry’s data shows that factories, communities and construction sites constitute the top three locations where Covid-19 incidence is detected at 48.06%, 12.5% and 11.56% respectively.

As the ministry’s data shows that shopping areas only comprises 4.78%, the statement said clarification needs to be accurately provided as to the incidence of Covid-19 infections in shopping malls and areas.

"It is obvious the HIDE information is incomplete and skewed and portrays a completely different picture than the real situation.

"The information is incomplete as only those premises and operations that diligently comply with the SOPs and MySejahtera recording are data-mined.

"Those sectors that do not comply and blatantly flout the SOPs are not evaluated for lack of data and thus do not appear as a hotspot, despite being so,” the statement claimed.

At the time of writing, MOSTI had not issued a statement in response to the claims by the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association and Malaysia Retail Chain Association.

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