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Even If You Can Dine Out During A Pandemic, Should You?

Even If You Can Dine Out During A Pandemic, Should You?

Being vaccinated doesn’t mean we should start taking a seat in eateries just yet.

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While the daily impacts of Covid-19 are still unfolding, fully vaccinated Malaysians have been given back some of their freedom.

Among them is the ‘privilege’ to dine in under Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

It’s a big deal as many Malaysians, especially young people, love to hang out with their friends at a mamak stall or restaurant.

While most mamak stalls – which have stood empty for months – are not holding back, others, especially Chinese eateries, decided to take no chances.

Empty chairs and tables at a Swedish furniture retailer in Cheras. (Pic credit TRP/Fernando Fong)

Opinions are very divided on the return to some degree of normality, given the enclosed nature of many eateries.

At the Seksyen 17 Hawker Centre in Petaling Jaya, hawkers said they prefer to do less business with takeaways instead of taking the risk of forming new infection clusters.

Better earn less and stay safe, they said.

“We should not underestimate the virus. Even jabbed people can still catch or spread the virus.

“We don’t feel safe ourselves, so why would we want patrons to come and sit down to eat?

“It is also difficult to check to every customer. We can’t afford any fines, neither do we want our patrons to ‘kena saman’ (be issued fines),” said a seller of yau char kwai (Chinese crullers).

The Seksyen 17 Hawker Centre in Petaling Jaya chose not open for dine-in despite being allowed to do so.

The concern is not unfounded. A man in Ipoh was fined RM1,500 recently for failing to prove his vaccination status while dining in.

Meanwhile, a mamak stall operator said it is safe to open their door to dine-in patrons as he and his workers had been fully vaccinated.

A sign was even posted in the mamak stall to reassure wary patrons that the risk has passed.

It is also out of desperation that he decided to reopen for dine-in.

“Covid-19 is killing our business, and I had to borrow money from money lenders to survive.

“Even then, we do not expect a swift return to full houses any time soon, not when daily cases continue to remain high,” said the man, who declined to be named.

Workers at a mamak restaurant caught off guard without wearing face mask.

His words echoed the warning sounded by health director-general Tan Sri Dr. Noor Hisham Abdullah.

Dr. Noor Hisham cautioned that the reopening of various activities was due to economic necessity and not because it is safe.

An employee at a popular fast-food chain said they were supposed to reopen for dine-in last Friday.

“We got the instruction from our headquarters at 8 pm last Thursday to start arranging the tables and chairs and reopen for dine-in the day after.

“By 10 pm, the order was rescinded with no reason given, and there will be no dine-in until further notice,” said the employee, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

At the end of the day, as the nation continues to see an uptick in cases, again and again, the answer is far from a straightforward one.

Between supporting our local restaurants and staying safe, every one of us will have to weigh the risks and rewards carefully.

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