PETALING JAYA (May 18): Shopping mall operators have stayed alert and implemented strict SOPs in curbing the spread of Covid-19, hence the malls should not be punished for any inadvertent outings by the visitors, said the shopping mall and retail associations.

In a joint statement today, issued by Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK), Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA)  and Bumiputra Retailers Organisation (BRO), the associations raised their concerns on the to-be-announced new list of Hotspot Identification by Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system.

“We feel totally aggrieved by the way HIDE is used to stigmatise the malls especially when the malls have immediately and diligently rearranged the gate-keeping process to ensure that the MySejahtera system accurately records the information and that the data collected when used by the HIDE system is not distorted. We believe the Minister may have been misinformed of the real situation and will not penalise the malls due to no fault of the malls,” said the statement.

Putrajaya has released the first HIDE list on May 8, 2021, comprising 150 premises, including shopping malls, which have the potential of becoming Covid-19 hotspots. The list has caught public’s attention and on the same day, senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob has ordered premises on the HIDE list to close for three days for sanitisation process.

The abrupt decision which came one week before Hari Raya has impacted the retail industry and small businesses.

According to the joint statement by shopping mall and retail associations, upon the sudden introduction of the HIDE system, malls have immediately rearranged the process of admitting shoppers. 

Instead of allowing shoppers to first scan the MySejahtera QR code, there will be gate-keepers to check the shoppers’ risk status on their MySejahtera app home screen to stop the non low risk shoppers from entering the mall.

Furthermore, malls will only allow low-risk shoppers with temperatures below 37.5 degree Celsius to scan the mall’s QR code before entering the mall. 

It is definitely an extremely onerous procedure involving the deployment (and cost) of more manpower which has already resulted in numerous altercations with the public, but nevertheless, necessary to ensure that malls are safe destinations.

It is not conceivable that malls be penalised for having admitted only low-risk family members who have visited together as a family outing, said the statement.

There is no way for the mall to determine if the individuals are part of a family outing group nor it is wrong for a family to go out together as a family outing, especially when the shoppers are complying with the relevant SOPs and complying with social distancing. In any case, members of the same family household do not practise and it is not practical to practise social distancing at home.

“Any members of the public can come to shopping malls so long they are in the low-risk category and we have no way of stopping anyone from entering the mall to shop or do their errands including buying essentials and takeaway meals, or as indicated, even meet up. The onus must be on the rakyat to refrain from such gatherings as it is not up to malls to be the police nor do we have any such rights,” it said.

The joint statement also emphasises that with strict SOPs, enhanced and regular cleaning and sanitisation measures, malls are safe places to visit as the safety of shoppers is at shopping malls’ top priority.

“We are again appealing for consultation to be conducted with industry stakeholders to arrive at practical and effective SOPs and policies to avoid unnecessary misinformation and further unwarranted and unfair negative impact for the industry. It is to be noted that malls and retailers serve an essential role in the supply and economic chain of our country’s economy and we continue to advocate that both lives and livelihoods matter,” said the statement.

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