By Sakini Mohd Said
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) – Shoppers adore sales that offer good bargains and discounts of up to 70 percent or more.
Many outlets in shopping centres and even well-known boutiques in the Klang Valley are currently offering attractive price cuts to tempt the public who do not want to miss out on the opportunity to get the items they want.
Well, I am no different. Clothes originally priced at hundreds of ringgit are now going for less than RM100 at a famous boutique in a shopping complex in the Klang Valley and I planned to get a few of their outfits to add to my collection.
I decided to visit the boutique on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowd but boy, was I in for a surprise! It was a weekday, mind you, but the boutique I wanted to patronise, as well as other outlets in the mall, were chock-a-block with shoppers.
To my horror, not a single person was observing physical distancing. I asked myself if they have forgotten that our country is not out of the woods yet and is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic.
I spoke casually to two of the salesgirls who worked at the aforementioned boutique to find out why they were not enforcing the standard operating procedures (SOP) set by the government to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
“People don’t seem to be bothered about the SOP. And, we get scolded when we remind our customers about the SOP,” one of them told me.
“We tried to get them to observe physical distancing by only allowing a limited number of shoppers into the store but it was not possible for us to monitor them all the time as we don’t have that many workers here. Each of us is busy attending to our customers and getting them the right size, colour, etc.”
It does seem like many people (not all) are becoming increasingly complacent and behaving as if Malaysia is free from the pandemic. They are paying no heed to the danger posed by COVID-19 and are gleefully patronising crowded places. What’s more, they also have their children and elderly family members in tow.
But I have noticed that in general, the public has no issue about masking up, wearing either a reusable fabric or surgical three-ply mask. Unfortunately, for some reason or other, many people appear to have forgotten the importance of practicing physical distancing especially when it came to two of their favourite activities – dining out and shopping.
Take a look at any restaurant or stall. The new normal is practically inexistent in many eateries where their patrons can be seen eating and drinking happily and chatting for hours.
I think Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah is probably foaming at the mouth, having repeatedly reminded the public to avoid the 3Cs, namely crowded places, confined spaces and close conversations. But his advice seem to be falling on deaf ears as many people out there are ignoring it.
Recently, I visited a food court at a shopping mall in the Klang Valley where a popular stall specialising in bean sprouts-based dishes is located.
Here, the tables and chairs are arranged close to one another in a U shape with the chef cooking right in front of them. I refused to patronise this stall as there was no social distancing at all among the diners who were enjoying the antics of the chef as he showed off his cooking skills.
While the stall owner and his customers were blissfully oblivious to the danger posed by COVID-19, I, on the other hand, was worried about the situation. Is the stall owner so obsessed with making profits that he is willing to throw caution to the wind by not arranging the tables in compliance with the one-metre physical distancing ruling? And, what about the customers who are acting as if they are totally confident the individuals sitting next to them are not COVID-19 carriers?
Yes, Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob had said under new dine-in rules introduced on Dec 7, there is no limit to the number of people who can sit at a table in a restaurant, except in areas that are under Enhanced Movement Control Order, but he stressed that physical distancing must be observed.
I feel the government relaxed the dine-in rules to allow families to eat out together. It is, however, not advisable to share a table with people we are not familiar with as they could be asymptomatic or silent carriers of the COVID-19 virus.
The public must understand that last month’s easing of the SOPs was aimed at striking a balance between public health and economic recovery measures.
It was not the green light for the people to return to their normal way of life as the COVID-19 pandemic is far from over. Nearly one year has passed since the first case was detected in Malaysia on Jan 25, 2020, and the virus is still lurking in our community.
Many people may be relieved that a few COVID-19 vaccines have already emerged but that does not give them the licence to disregard the SOPs.
It is understood that Malaysia will obtain its first batch of vaccines in February this year which will be used to inoculate high-risk groups such as frontliners and senior citizens.
As of Jan 4, Malaysia has signed to procure 12.8 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. Our country will also receive 6.4 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from other suppliers.
Science, Technology and Innovation Deputy Minister Ahmad Amzad Hashim was reported as saying that the vaccines would not lead to side-effects over the long-term as they have been clinically tested.
He said the vaccines would be monitored by the National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency under the Ministry of Health but cautioned that the public would have to continue practicing the new normal way of life.
According to virologist and director of Universiti Malaya’s Tropical Infectious Diseases Research and Education Centre Prof Dr Sazaly Abu Bakar, the SOPs cannot be compromised even if one has been vaccinated.
Inoculation is important as the vaccine can prevent infection or progression of COVID-19. However, our fight against our silent enemy will be more pragmatic if we continue to observe the new norms.
This is where all of us play a vital role to not only protect ourselves but also our families by not exposing them to the risk of infection.
In short, don’t go out if you don’t have to.
This article expresses the personal views of the writer.
Translated by Rema Nambiar
Malaysian National News Agency
No.28 Jalan BERNAMA
Off Jalan Tun Razak
50400 Kuala Lumpur
Tel : +603-2693 9933 (General Line)
Email : helpdesk[at]bernama.com