Business owners adapt to new measures to cope with operating during pandemic

PETALING JAYA: The movement control order has driven business owners, especially those in retail, to rethink their operations in doing their part to curb infections arising from their places of business and some of those measures may remain in the longer term.

Malaysia Retail Association vice-president Datuk Ameer Ali Mydin said retailers have taken to hiring more security personnel as a crowd control measure as well as setting aside a budget for sanitisation works.

“We also hire managers and supervisors to be placed in certain parts of our outlets such as the fresh produce section to manage customer flow there, ” said Ameer, who is also Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd managing director.

Another standard feature in malls these days, he said, is the reduction in entry and exit points to better monitor customer traffic.

Ameer said that an additional measure that business outlets could adopt is to preview patrons’ MySejahtera application to see if they are of low or high risk or a person under surveillance before they are allowed to scan the MySejahtera QR code.

"This measure could better prevent irresponsible patrons from sneaking into premises when they should be isolating," he said.

All these new measures have certainly increased operating cost but they are inevitable as part of the new norm during the pandemic, he added.

“For example, a single sanitisation session can cost between 10 and 20 sen per square foot and this can amount to a hefty sum for larger premises, ” he said.

With MCO 3.0 being imposed from May 12 to June 7, Ameer said businesses at malls are expected to drop by 80% and he hopes the government could intervene to lighten the burden by offering better rebates on utilities and rent and wage subsidies for businesses employing more than 500 workers.

He also said he hopes for more Prihatin packages to be announced by the government to help the underprivileged.

Meanwhile, Malaysia Shopping Malls Association president Tan Sri Teo Chiang Kok said malls and retailers have been faithfully complying with standard operating procedure and imposing capacity control at outlets to better allow physical distancing.

“Malls have been sanitising diligently with more cleaning of common-touch surfaces and managements have also placed social distancing markers to help patrons comply with SOP.

“Furthermore, capacity controls are implemented based on four square metres per person to comply with the one-metre social-distancing requirement, ” he said.

Such measures, he added, will continue for as long as the circumstances call for them.

Teo, who is also 1Utama director, agreed with the idea to preview patrons’ MySejahtera status before they are allowed to scan the QR code to weed out any high-risk individuals.

“The practice of scanning the MySejahtera QR code before manually checking a patron’s risk status has caused the number of high-risk counts to be higher as the scan recorded a person’s entry when it should have been denied, ” he said.

While larger players seem to be coping with MCO requirements, SME Association of Malaysia president Datuk Michael Kang said smaller business owners are still struggling to comply with SOP guidelines that he claims are not consistent.

“They try their best to keep up but the rules seem to keep changing, ” he said, suggesting that the National Security Council bring in experts from the private sector to help formulate better guidelines for all.

Kang said he was also concerned about micro-businesses not being well prepared to cope with the current MCO 3.0, coming as they had hoped to gain a profit off the Hari Raya festivities but were forced to wind down when MCO was announced.

He added that 40% of the small and medium enterprises (SMEs) including those in the tourism, retail, food and beverage, event management, and private education sectors have been struggling since the first MCO.

“I don’t think the SMEs are ready (for another lockdown), ” he said.

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