Some Malaysian businesses go the extra mile in new normal

D Kanyakumari

KUALA LUMPUR (CNA) – As Malaysians transition into a “new normal” following the easing of most COVID-19 curbs, they have to heed the various social distancing rules put in place to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.

For instance, shoppers are required to have their temperature taken and sign in with their contact details before they are allowed to enter a business establishment.

They are also encouraged to maintain a one metre distance from one other, with the distance marked by tapes or stickers on the floor.

Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on July 6 that the police check over 20,000 establishments nationwide daily to ensure compliance since the country entered the recovery phase of the movement control order (MCO) from June 10 to August 31.

An average of 100 businesses are fined daily for failing to comply with the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

A customer gets his temperature check by a restaurant worker upon entering the premises. PHOTOS: BERNAMA
A staff disinfects the gym equipment prior to being used by the next customer
Customers queue at the payment centre marked by tapes or stickers on the floor

Meanwhile, some businesses are taking a step further by introducing extra features to provide a safe environment for their patrons.

Here are some examples:

COMPULSORY MASKS AND PANELS SEPARATING DINERS

For food establishments, workers are encouraged to wear masks while tables should be placed two metre apart, according to the SOPs on the National Security Council website.

While Ismail Sabri had said that businesses should not impose the use of face masks on customers, business owners like that of O&S Restaurant in Taman Paramount, Petaling Jaya, do not want to take things lightly.

The coffee shop has made it compulsory for customers to wear a face mask before entering. A staff member said the restaurant sees up to 300 customers on a good day and hence the move was to protect not only the customers, but the workers as well.

“Because when you see that many people, you don’t know who is the risky one,” he said.

Like many other food establishments these days, those who want to eat here will need to wait to be seated.

After the compulsory temperature check, solo customers or those who come in pairs will be seated in larger tables with other diners, separated by panels.

FACE SHIELDS TO BLOCK DROPLETS

In addition to face masks, face shields covering the entire face are also getting more common to protect the eyes from droplets that may contain virus particles.

Over at a Proton service centre operated by Setia Gemilang Auto Sdn Bhd, customers are required to assemble and wear the face shields provided before they meet the customer service consultants on duty.

This is in addition to the one metre social distance and transparent panels separating them from other customers in the waiting area.

Proton’s group corporate communications director Vijayaratnam Tharumartnam told CNA that the car manufacturer felt compelled to do more than the government requirement.

“COVID-19 is not something to take lightly as it involves people’s wellbeing and health. We want to make sure the safety and health of our customers are taken care of, and just as important is the health of our employees. We cannot put them at risk,” he said.

DISINFECTION STATIONS

Disinfection stations were spotted at several locations in the Klang Valley, like this one at a durian stall in SS2, Petaling Jaya. They spray disinfectant mist on those who walk through the frames, purportedly to eliminate germs.

However, Health Ministry Director-General Noor Hisham Abdullah has warned that such facilities are not effective in combatting the virus.

The duration of between 20 and 30 seconds would not be enough to disinfect effectively, he said in a press conference on April 15, according to the Star.

“The process does not get rid of the virus within the human body. Moreover, the chemicals might bring harm to our membrane mucosa like in the eyes or mouth,” he added, stressing that the ministry therefore does not recommend the use of such disinfection stations.

CARDBOARD MASCOTS TO ENSURE SOCIAL DISTANCING

To make complying with the SOPs fun, Sunway Velocity Mall in Kuala Lumpur has placed adorable cardboard characters at the tables of its food court.

The characters named Shuang Shuang the Bunny and Wei Wei the Panda keep diners company while ensuring social distancing, without having to use markers or tapes to indicate which seats are meant to be left vacant.

The SOPs have it that diners should leave alternate chairs empty.

Sunway Malls CEO HC Chan told CNA they wanted to strike a balance between the stringent measures and a sense of normality across their premises. “Hence, we came up with creative measures such as cute cardboard characters, placing them at seating areas to keep the seats partially occupied as a subtle message of social distancing,” he said.

While children are not barred from public areas, the government has advised parents against bringing their kids to crowded places. With this in mind, another mall under the management of Sunway Malls, Sunway Pyramid, has taken additional measures so that it is safe for people of all ages.

Among others, it has installed High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters, which traps 99.97 per cent of dust, pollen and dirt up to a size of 0.3 microns.

ACRYLIC PANELS SEPARATING CASHIERS AND CUSTOMERS

Supermarkets were allowed to operate during the initial MCO period, while most businesses were ordered to close to curb the spread of COVID-19.

To minimise the risk of infection, Village Grocer, which has over 12 outlets nationwide, took some extra health measures to protect its employees and customers.

One such measure is the use of acrylic panels at the cashier counters to provide a barrier between the cashiers and patrons.

“It is important for us to have our customers having confidence in us. This way, we protect both staff and customers,” its communications manager Simon Choo said.

TOUCHLESS FAUCETS AND SOAP DISPENSERS

After a long hiatus, the government allowed for gyms to re-open from June 15.

Parts of the SOPs include social distancing, sanitising of equipment after every use and the banning of contact sports.

DailyMuscle, a gym in Kuala Lumpur, however, added several features so that customers can work out with peace of mind.

One such step is the installation of an air and surface sterilisation system, which is left running around the clock.

DailyMuscle team leader Noel Chelliah told CNA that they had also replaced their water faucets and soap dispensers with a touchless system.

“We need to reopen safely so that people can resume their training. For that to happen, we knew we had to give people the full assurance that it is safe to return,” he said.