Joy of eating out must wait for now

PETALING JAYA: Some people may be wary of dining-in for now, but so are food operators – with some hesitant to open their doors to the public, even to those who are fully vaccinated.

Malaysia-Singapore Coffeeshop Proprietors Association president Wong Teu Hoon said some 90% of operators nationwide had chosen not to accept diners back yet as Covid-19 infections were still high.

“Only a small number of eateries are open despite most of their workers having been vaccinated.

“From previous experience, we learned that it’s not worth the risk to allow dine-ins. Keeping safe outweighs the potential gains,” he said.

Wong, who is also Pan Malaysia Koo Soo Restaurants and Chefs Association president, said both associations’ members could decide for themselves whether to allow dine-ins or not.

“But our members in some states have yet to vaccinate their workers.

“We call on more state assemblymen to emulate leaders in Melaka to help more food operators in their respective areas get their workers vaccinated,” he said.

Stephanie Wong who has been running the LFF Seafood Restaurant in Old Klang Road, Kuala Lumpur, with her husband for 24 years, said she would stick to takeaways and delivery orders only until cases in the Klang Valley drop significantly.

“It’s better to take precautions because we are fighting a virus we cannot see,” she said, adding that she would welcome diners back only when cases in the Klang Valley dip below the 1,000 mark.

Malaysian Muslim Restaurant Owners Association (Presma) president Datuk Jawahar Ali Taib Khan said the move to allow the fully-vaccinated to dine in, along with children under 17, which started from Aug 20, was viewed warily by both operators and patrons.

“Most of us are not open yet, especially in the northern areas such as Taiping (Perak) and states like Penang, Kedah and Perlis as our staff are not fully vaccinated.

“In contrast, most of our members in the Klang Valley have received at least one jab.

“Only when at least 90% of our staff are vaccinated will we feel safe to reopen for dine-ins,” he said, adding that members in Johor and Negri Sembilan had also reported slow vaccination rates for their workers.

Jawahar Ali noted that even though operators in Penang were now allowed to reopen for dining in under Phase Two of the Nation Recovery Plan, only 10% of the operators had done so.

“We are thankful that the government has allowed us to reopen, but it’s still not safe to do so,” he said.

Malaysian Indian Restaurant Owners Association (Primas) vice- president C. Krishnan said those in the northern states were calling for the vaccination of their workers to be expedited to help operators reopen fully soon.

Malaysian Retail Chain Association’s food and beverage division head Datuk Seri Garry Chua agreed, saying that many workers were still waiting for their second dose.

“Operators are still sceptical of reopening, with some worried about a possible flip-flop (in rules) amid a new Cabinet being formed.“Some of them are also financially strained as reopening requires spending money to sanitise their premises, restock their inventory and rehire staff,” he said.

Chua hoped that the new government would help operators proactively by offering Covid-19 loans and providing higher wage subsidies.

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