‘Relax dine-in rules cautiously even for those vaccinated’

Dr Zainal: Dining indoors at eateries should be limited to those who have been vaccinated.

HEALTH experts are divided over whether eateries in the Klang Valley should limit dine-in based on proof of Covid-19 vaccination.

While the move could infringe on the rights of customers, some say it could help the flailing food and beverage sector stay afloat.

Malaysian Public Health Physicians Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said such a move could be considered for indoor premises.

“Outdoor areas can be open to all, but indoor areas should be limited to those who have been vaccinated,” he told StarMetro.Zainal said eatery operators should ensure proper ventilation within their indoor premises.

He also called on the authorities to step up inspections to ensure diners comply with the standard operating procedure.

Universiti Malaya’s Social and Preventive Medicine Department Prof Dr Moy Foong Ming is against making dining in conditional upon one’s vaccination status.

She said the same safety measures, such as wearing a mask and maintaining physical distancing, should apply to everyone.

“Outdoor dine-in where there is good airflow should be allowed, but indoors, where ventilation is poor, can be risky,” she added.

Malaysian Society of Infection Control and Infectious Diseases patron Datuk Dr Christopher Lee said the move was unlikely to help struggling establishments much because of the relatively low number of people who had received their shots.

“At the moment, it is not practical. Implementing this means that we have to ensure all workers have been vaccinated too,” he pointed out.

Universiti Putra Malaysia epidemiologist Assoc Prof Dr Malina Osman cautioned that relaxing dine-in restrictions could exacerbate the outbreak of the more transmissible Delta variant.

“The virus is known to infect people through bodily fluid or aerosolised particles in confined spaces.

“These particles may linger in the air for up to 16 hours, exposing patrons to infections,” she noted.

She said dine-in should only be allowed after a significant proportion of the population had been fully vaccinated.

The food and beverage sector had in recent weeks stepped up calls for the government to loosen restrictions in view of flailing businesses.

Restaurant and Bistro Owners Association, in a report by The Star on July 14, warned that 60% of establishments could close permanently in the next two months if the ban continued.

Its media adviser Jeremy Lim, when contacted, said the suggestion to limit dine-in to vaccinated individuals was doable but needed more details.

“For a while now, people have been tossing about this idea of vaccine passports. Maybe we can implement that locally first,” he said.

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin had announced on July 15 that the government was planning to allow fully vaccinated individuals to travel and dine in at restaurants.

Dine-in is currently off-limits for states under Phase One of the National Recovery Plan.

In Singapore, fully vaccinated individuals can dine in at eateries in groups of five while those not vaccinated can do so only in pairs or alone starting July 19.

In France, eateries, shopping centres and trains will be out of bounds for those not vaccinated starting next month.

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