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Eateries now operate from 7am to 7pm

0 month ago, 07-Jun-2021


KOTA KINABALU: The Sabah government has changed the business operating hours of eateries from 9am to 6pm to 7am to 7pm with immediate effect.

The change is made after taking into consideration the appeals from various parties, said Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Seri Masidi Manjun on Monday.

He said that the type of eateries that are allowed to operate under the new schedule are restaurants, cafs, food shops and stalls, food trucks, hawkers, medan selera, convenience stores, food delivery, take away and drive through.

At the same time, the operating hours for public market or daily market is now from 6am to 3pm.

The business community have urged the Sabah Covid-19 Disaster Management Committee to review its decision to standardize business operation hours from 9am to 6pm.

Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) president Datuk Michael Lui believed the State Government will listen to the people’s sentiment and take cognizance of the negative effects of the new operation hours on business operators, their employees and the public.

Lui said the chamber understood that the decision was made to flatten the curve of Covid-19 infections and prevent further spread of the virus in light of the daily Covid-19 infections in Sabah which has reached 305 cases as well as the emergence of six new clusters on Sunday.

He said the government must disseminate clear information pertaining to the standard operating procedures (SOP) as ambiguity would cause confusion among the public.

For instance, he said business operators were confused with the lack of clarity on the SOP of the total lockdown, in particular from which ministries they should seek approval to operate.

In addition, he said the government must not make sudden announcements and not give the people sufficient time to get ready for the revised SOP.

He pointed out that the people were frustrated with delay in decision making and lack of coordination between ministries or agencies, which did not augur well for the fight against Covid-19.

On Sunday, Masidi announced that business hours in the state, including for restaurants, supermarkets and sundry shops, have been shortened to 9am to 6pm from Monday. Markets can only open from 6am to 3pm.

Lui said containing the spread of Covid-19 was instrumental for economic recovery.

Hence, he urged the people to cooperate with the government in complying with the SOP to stop the virus from spreading.

He also called on the people to register for the National Covid-19 Immunization Programme and take precautionary measures, including avoiding confined spaces, crowded places, close conversations, as well as wash their hands regularly, wear a mask and watch out for Covid-19 symptoms.

All Malaysians, including leaders must comply with the SOP.

The SOP must also be clear, reasonable and standardized to ensure fairness to all.

Sabah United Chinese Chambers of Commerce (SUCCC) hoped that the state government will revise its latest SOP for business activities and allowing the food and beverage businesses in the state to start business hours as early as 6am.

Its president, Tan Sri Andrew Liew which is also a member of Sabah State Economic Advisory Committee, in a statement yesterday said he hopes the state government can sympathize with the hardships of those in the food and beverage industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition, the current ban on dine-in food has made it difficult to operate businesses due to cumbersome procedures,” he said.

According to Liew, the new operating hours which only allows them to start business at 9am will make their business bleak or worse, and customers will be scarce.

He pointed out that since all businesses and sectors start work at 9am too, many of the workers will not have time to purchase food and drinks before they start work.

Liew who is also the vice chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industries, also said that in addition, supply chains that supply various food samples and fresh foods for the catering industry will also feel a lot of pressure with the new time limit.

Liew supports the state government’s efforts to stop the spread of the pandemic in Sabah which is why it has to tighten the SOP for commercial activities.

However, he said that many food and beverage operators are not immune to adversity due to the pandemic attack, and their business may fall into more severe conditions when they are restricted again.

“At the same time, many people and office workers still rely on take-away food to fill up their three meals a day in their daily work. SUCCC therefore hopes that the government can slightly change the operating time limit for the food and beverage industry,” Liew added.

SUCCC hopes that the state government can formulate good policies while tightening operating procedures so that the food and beverage industry can continue to survive, he said.

Kota Kinabalu member of parliament Chan Foong Hin also appealed to the state government to extend the business operating hours.

Chan said the frequent change of SOP is confusing the people and not helpful at all.

The situation had been so bad that a version of SOP had been overwritten by another ‘updated’ version of SOP released just merely 10 minutes apart in such a spectacular U-turn! This would only confuse the people and gradually make the people lose confidence in the leadership of the government. Such a swift U-turn on SOP is a manifestation of weak leadership and having no clear direction in fighting the pandemic, he said in a statement on Monday.

He added that he was confident that most of the people in Sabah were willing to follow all the SOP and would fully cooperate with the government in fighting the Covid-19 pandemic together.

However, SOP that ise updated too frequently again and again do not help at all, he lamented.

He said that the SOP announced on May 6 was at 10pm and the final decision had been to shorten the operating hours of all key economic sectors in Sabah and to change it from 9am to 6pm.

An exception had been accorded for wet markets where they are allowed to operate from 6am in the morning to 3pm in the afternoon. The main reason for the shortening of business hours is that the Covid-19 pandemic in Sabah had worsened with six new clusters on Sunday, which is the highest increase recently. GRS government had wanted more movement control in place to prevent crowds, Chan said.

He added that under the same reason, Kota Kinabalu, Putatan and Penampang were restored from being regarded as one district to three districts.

People now cannot come and go freely across these three districts. The police will set up more roads to stop these traffics, he said.

He said that although the new SOP was intended to be good, it had caused injustice to the food and beverages industry.

He reminded the GRS government that under the new SOP schedule, most eateries and coffeeshops will lose their prime-time breakfast business.

Limiting their operating hours till after 9 o’clock is like telling these operators to give up a major round of business crowd comprising of office workers who normally patronize between 6 to 9 o’clock in the morning, he said.

Chan also said that under the new SOP, only food hawkers with settings inside the markets are allowed to operate breakfast business.

But not all food hawkers set up inside markets operate breakfast business. Like for example the food hawkers at the Lido market – these hawkers normally operate at night, and such restriction of operating telling to stay at home at night is akin to signing these businesses death certificate and telling them to go starve at home, he said.

Chan reminded that the operators in the food and beverages industry were put into a predicament where they had no choice but to suffer in silence being unable to speak of their losses of business opportunity.

Not long ago, the Sabah Police Commissioner had made a great statement that even restaurant employees cannot be seen eating at their work place, otherwise it would be deemed to be ‘dining-in’ and therefore violate SOP. Originally, the business hours were adjusted to 7am to 7pm. Then there were still some hopes that they can derive an income from the breakfast and dinner businesses. Now even this hope is dashed, he said.

Chan reminded that food and beverage industry has been classified as an essential service even since MCO 1.0.

When the pandemic had worsened, crowd control mechanisms were put in place and therefore dine-in was banned with only takeaways allowed. When the situation had improved, depending on the degree of improvement, conditions such as a table with two persons, 50% of the number of people on the table, or even maximum capacity on a table, were imposed. These were all effective measures as crowd control.

However right now, under the name of a complete lockdown, the business hours of the food and beverage industry have been disrupted! May I ask now that dine-in is banned, and that no diners will gather in the coffeeshop/restaurant to drink tea, eat and chit chat, so why even bother to interfere with their business schedule?! Does this government think that the Covid-19 coronavirus has a time schedule of infection and starts attacking or infecting people between 6 o’clock in the evening and 9 o’clock in the morning so people must stay home? he said.

Chan added that the Sabah Covid-19 Disaster Management Committee seemed to have stopped thinking of the peoples livelihood in the release of the latest SOP imposing blanket operating hours on various industries, especially the livelihoods of those in the food and beverage industry.

This is no different from how previously Sabah ports were only allowed to operate from 6am to 6pm, completely ignoring the need for continuity in the global cargo supply chain, he said.

I sincerely appeal to the government and Sabah Covid-19 Disaster Management Committee that since dine-in had already been banned and there will be no gatherings or crowds in restaurants or coffeeshops, they should be exempted from the rigidly of prescribed business hours. As for other key economic areas, work from home should be arranged as much as possible, he said.

He then urged all Sabahans to stay at home and go out only when necessary.

In any event, people are now scared of contracting Covid-19 and will not go around spending. Those who insist on operating their business may not even earn back to cover their utility bills, he said.

Chan also called on the GRS government to speed up setting vaccination centres and obtain more supplies from the federal government.

What the GRS state government must do now is to go deep into the rural areas through local leaders to strengthen vaccination publicity and registration. As for the business hours of the food and beverage industry, all I ask is for this government to have mercy on them and scrap the imposition of business hours on them.

Luyang assemblyman Ginger Phoong also urged the Sabah government to make allowances for the food hawkers and small businesses in the total lockdown that is supposed to last until June 14.

If markets are to operate at 9am, they would rather not operate at all as all fresh goods would not be able to be delivered on time. How can the hawkers act immediately? he asked.

He further questioned the late night announcements of policy changes on the newest operating hours.

I do not disagree with the government to tighten up our lockdown policies and I also agree that enforcement should be strengthened. However, in my opinion, policies must be designed based on science and data. The government must understand the actual situation on site.

With the latest operation hours of 9am to 6pm, F&B outlets cannot sell either breakfast or dinner, he said.
He said that the new business hours do not only affect eateries but also essential workers who might not be able to get their meals on time.

Certain hawkers are only selling mixed rice in the morning to gain some income. It is also impossible that they would gather crowds. Furthermore, a lot of families do not cook as both may be essential workers, frontliners like nurses. How do they take away after work? For those who wish to stay at home and order delivery would also be affected severely, isnt this creating inconvenience? he asked.

Phoong said that the new travel policies limiting district crossings within the state capital will help to flatten the curve. But he said it also adversely affects business owners by limiting their operating hours and customer base.

Everyone going to eateries to take away at 5pm would increase the chance of creating crowds, isnt it?
If the government is firm on not extending the operation hours, they should at least allow business owners to operate accordingly. For example, those who offer breakfast to only operate in the morning maybe until 10am. For those offering dinner services should be allowed to operate until 7pm or 8pm, he suggested.

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