No cut-and-dry answer to hair salons opening during MCO


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 11 Apr 2020

FINALLY, a lock of good news since the movement control order (MCO) was instated four weeks ago – we can soon have our out-of-control hair trimmed.

Certainly, barbers and stylists should be placed under the essential services category. After a month, it’s a small but timely reward for many of us who have obediently stayed at home and complied with the MCO.

Having been reduced to using Zoom for our daily video meetings, looking decent remains part of proper self-grooming and self-discipline.

Sure, the uproar over a suggestion that the female workforce should apply make-up while working from home (or WFH, the accepted abbreviation for it now) didn’t bode well for the argument of presentability.

And rightfully, it led to outrage on social media since many women need to deal with kids, as well as household chores while WFH.

But when it comes to our hairdo, I can safely say that most of us want to look presentable.

In my Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia alumnus chat group, comprising warga emas (senior citizens), some have started lamenting grey hair roots and how they would need their stylists to conceal them – soon!

There are some exceptions, mainly men who have lost their crowning glories. For those of us who still have hair (although visibly thinning by the day), we should be grateful to still need a haircut.

For some, the salt and pepper look is cool, like actor George Clooney’s. This is unlike many Asian leaders who seem to have jet-black hair despite their age. For crying out loud, it neither looks real nor good. Quite frankly, though, it looks terrible.

Basically, we can’t wait for the barber shops and hair salons to reopen.

But from press reports, these barber shops and hair salons (not saloons, which are for cowboys to drink whiskey) will first need to make an application online with the International Trade and Industry Ministry (Miti).

This may seem unnecessarily bureaucratic, but it makes perfect sense as these businesses must agree to implement and define safety measures.

According to the rules, only the cutting of hair is permitted and that businesses must comply with existing guidelines, including those of the Health Ministry and enforcement agencies.

Precautionary measures are a must since it would be impossible to comply with social distancing practices of keeping at least a metre away, but barbers and stylists would want to protect themselves, too.

It would be prudent to have customers’ temperatures checked (now a standard operating procedure in most places) and insist they wear face masks.

No barber or stylist would want their customers to sneeze or cough when they are doing their work. Likewise, customers also want to be protected should the barber or stylist be unwell. I would expect them to wear face masks and gloves, as well as ensure combs and scissors used are properly sanitised.

The Singapore government also allows barbershops and hair salons to operate under its current lockdown, or circuit breaker period, as it’s called. However, no hair treatments using chemicals are allowed.

Last month, Singapore’s Straits Times reported that a 58-year-old hairdresser, one of 12 confirmed coronavirus cases in Singapore on March 8, attended to customers after developing symptoms but insisted she always wore a mask.

The woman, who works from her home in Jurong West Street 74, is linked to a dinner party cluster, which had 30 cases as of March 8.

She told Chinese evening daily Lianhe Wanbao that she attended to about 10 customers from March 3 to 7.

Apparently, she had a blocked nose on March 3 and had informed her customers before their appointments that she was not feeling well.

“Some of them I told over the phone (that I was sick), and the rest I told them when they arrived at my house. But most of them said they were not worried,” she revealed.

Selangor and Federal Territories Indian Hairstylists Association chairman Ganathiban Murugan said he was unsure why the government was allowing people to get their haircut at the barber’s.

I would have expected him to welcome the government's decision, as with most of us.

He was quoted saying that “we have had to close since March 18, why not wait till after April 28?

“In supermarkets, people have to stand at least one metre away from each other, but to cut hair, we have to come into close contact with our customers. How do we keep a safe distance from them?

“We do not know who has the virus. My suggestion is that we do not open shop for now, it is the wrong time.”

Well, he’s assuming the MCO will be lifted by April 28, but we remain clueless. With government leaders hinting about a no-go for Ramadan bazaars and prayers at mosques during the fasting month, we’re going to have hold up holed up for a while longer.

Malaysians, by now, have braced themselves for all eventualities. In any case, even after the MCO period, life will not be the same again.

The coronavirus won’t disappear after the MCO. We will all have to live with this problem for at least a year, or more, if no vaccine is forthcoming.

But we hope Miti will simplify and expedite the application process. We hope Miti considered these issues before Friday’s announcement.

There is little point in telling us vetting applications will take two days if the outcome, in fact, takes 10 days. Remember, these are just barbers or stylists running small businesses with one or two staff.

So, let’s cut the red tape and not make the approval process a hair-tearing experience for them.

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