The most important thing is to prepare the people and businesses for an exit plan from the pandemic, says MAH
by S BIRRUNTHA / pic by MUHD AMIN NAHARUL
KLANG Valley businesses, hoteliers, tourism players and retailers are eager to open for business as Covid-19 restrictions ease in preparation for Phase 2 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).
SME Association of Malaysia national VP Chin Chee Seong said business owners are ready to move into Phase 2 of the NRP, as more than 80% of the Klang Valley population have received their complete vaccination.
He hoped Phase 2 would be implemented soon as many businesses are close to shutting down and causing more people to lose their jobs under present restrictions.
“So, the government’s decision to move the Klang Valley into Phase 2 is lauded by us. We hope the government can open up all sectors and ensure strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) enforcement.
“Like it or not, we have no choice but to understand that the pandemic will not go away anytime soon. It will be there and we have to live with it,” he told The Malaysian Reserve (TMR) yesterday.
Chin said nevertheless, the fear of Covid-19 variants like Delta that have contributed to a continued rise in cases among businesses will always be there.
Therefore, he said the government should act on getting the rest of the people vaccinated soon, not only the Klang Valley but the whole country, as many businesses rely on supply from other states too.
Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the association is pleased that dine-ins are currently allowed under Phase 1 for individuals who are fully vaccinated.
He said members remain cautious and will not misuse the leeway given by the government.
“So, we are very careful about that. We are also cooperating closely with the government on all the announcements and we take full responsibility on following all the SOPs.
“As of now, about 90% of our workers at ‘mamak’ restaurants in the Klang Valley have received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine and we advise all of our members to get their employees fully vaccinated before opening their restaurants,” he told TMR.
He said the association is happy with the operating hours implemented for restaurants currently and would not ask for 24-hours operation until the number of daily cases go down.
Meanwhile, Malaysian Association of Hotels (MAH) CEO Yap Lip Seng believes the timing is right to move forward into Phase 2, as the indicators are in fact reflecting a good level of preparedness for the Klang Valley.
He said the most important thing is to prepare the people and businesses for an exit plan from the pandemic and that includes reopening of economic sectors and accepting Covid-19 will be a daily thing for some time.
“The fear of the variants of concern, or any other variants that may surface in the future, is never ending but the indicators are much clearer now and the objective is no longer to achieve zero cases, but rather to be able to manage the situation, to ensure reasonable public healthcare capacity, while returning to our lives.
“Hotels, since day one, have demonstrated a high level of compliance to SOPs that minimises risks to both employees and guests, and that should be the guiding principle moving forward,” he told TMR.
Yap said part of MAH’s clean and safe protocol, on top of strict SOPs in all areas of the hotel, also includes contingency and isolation plans in the event of any detected cases. Therefore, he said hotels are now safe to reopen, not just for stays but also dining and as venues for business events.
The Malaysian Association of Tour and Travel Agents (Matta) president Datuk Tan Kok Liang told TMR that the announcement that the Klang Valley will be moving into Phase 2 comes as good news to the country’s tourism industry.
However, he said the announcement should have been sooner to revive the travel industry, as international countries such as Hungary, Italy and most of Europe and America opened up to tourists as early as July.
Close to Malaysia, he said Thailand, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and South Korea have also announced the opening of borders to international tourists.
“The government needs to finally make the bold move to return to normal and allow companies to operate, failing to do so would see many more companies collapsing in the next few months.
“Interstate and overseas travel should be allowed for those who have been fully vaccinated as more than 60% of adults have been fully vaccinated as of today,” he said.
Tan said the tourism industry alone lost about RM100 billion in 2020 due to the various travel restrictions imposed, with more than 40% of travel agencies closing shop and the number is expected to rise this year.
He said the Klang Valley alone contributes almost 40% of total GDP and with more than 97% of the population having been fully vaccinated, all economic sectors in this region should be opened as the country steps into the endemic phase.
On that note, several retail associations have also urged the government to reopen all sectors of the economy, especially for those who are fully vaccinated.
Malaysia Shopping Malls Association president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok in a joint open letter to Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin Abu Bakar said yesterday that people need to be present at workplaces without the need to obtain approvals from the relevant authorities.
He was speaking on behalf of other associations such as the Malaysia Retailers Association, Malaysia Retail Chain Association, Bumiputra Retailers Organisation, Malaysia REIT Managers Association, Malaysian Association of Theme Park and Family Attractions and the Malaysian Association of Film Exhibitors.
Teo said the fully vaccinated numbers should be excluded from the existing maximum of 60% of total employees allowed to go back physically to work.
On top of that, he said there should be no distinction on whether any sectors are deemed as “essential” or not, as they are already playing an essential role in the supply chain.
“We are also very uplifted that the country’s overall vaccination rate is now at 68% of our adult population, with 95.7% having been achieved in the Klang Valley.
“The ability of employers to revive their businesses back to normal and pay salaries will, in turn, encourage spending into the domestic economic system and create the much-needed multiplier effects for the overall rapid revival of our country’s economy,” he added.
Yesterday, Prime Minister (PM) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the cinemas can finally open its doors once again to Malaysians starting Sept 9.
However, he said only those who are fully vaccinated can enter the halls and the previous SOP of keeping the hall at half capacity still remains.
“The relaxation in SOPs for the entertainment sector is set to benefit more than one million Malaysians, including artists and workers in the industry,” he said in a statement.