Malls are safe places, don't punish us for other people's actions, say retail associations

Malls are being extra vigilant and checking vistors' status on the MySejahtera app. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Malls are safe places to visit and its owners should not be penalised for actions of others that are beyond their control, say retail associations.

This comes after Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba was quoted as saying that several shopping malls would be listed under the Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system after it was found that they were used for family gatherings during the recent Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations.

He said his ministry had identified the malls in question and placed them on the HIDE list in an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association, Malaysia Retail Chain Association and Bumiputra Retailers Organisation, released a joint statement in response to an article on The Star's website.

The statement read that shopping malls should not be penalised as measures were taken to only allow low-risk shoppers and there was no way to stop anyone from entering the mall to shop or run errands.

"There is no way for the mall to determine if the individuals are part of a family outing group nor it is wrong for a family to go out together as a family outing, especially when the shoppers are complying with the relevant SOPs and complying with social distancing.

"In any case, members of the same family household do not practise and it is not practical to practise social distancing at home," it said.

The statement read that since the introduction of the HIDE system, mall gatekeepers were tasked to check the risk status of the shoppers on their MySejahtera home screen before they were allowed to scan the MySejahtera QR Code.

Only low-risk shoppers, with a body temperature below 37.5 degrees Celsius were allowed to scan the MySejahtera QR code, it said.

"It is definitely an extremely onerous procedure involving the deployment (and cost) of more manpower, which has already resulted in numerous altercations with the public, but nevertheless, necessary to ensure that malls are safe destinations."

The statement also said that if indeed the HIDE information reported that families were meeting up at malls during festive events, they would assume that it was for purchase of essentials, takeaway meals or shopping since sit-down meals and dine-ins were strictly not permitted.

"Any members of the public can come to shopping malls, so long they are in the low-risk category and we have no way of stopping anyone from entering the mall to shop or do their errands including buying essentials and takeaway meals – or as indicated, even meet up.

"The onus must be on the rakyat to refrain from such gatherings as it is not up to malls to be the police nor do we have any such rights.

"We should treat the situation at the source, i.e., for the rakyat to stay at home and not make the venue, the malls, suffer any punishment for any inadvertent outings by the rakyat.

"We feel totally aggrieved by the way HIDE is used to stigmatise the malls especially when the malls have immediately and diligently rearranged the gate-keeping process to ensure that the MySejahtera system accurately records the information and that the data collected when used by the HIDE system is not distorted.

"We believe the minister may have been misinformed of the real situation and will not penalise the malls due to no fault of the malls," it said.

The associations said that malls were safe places to visit, as the safety of shoppers was top priority with all required SOPs in place including the augmented entry requirements, enhanced and regular cleaning and sanitisation measures.

They appealed for consultation to be conducted with industry stakeholders to arrive at practical and effective SOPs and policies to avoid unnecessary misinformation and further unwarranted and unfair negative impact for the industry.

"Malls and retailers serve an essential role in the supply and economic chain of our country's economy and we continue to advocate that both lives and livelihoods matter," it said.

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