Businesses reopen, vendors get accustomed to ‘new normal’ as Putrajaya eases restrictions

Chan Kan Woh, of Chi Shang Mei Enterprises, is seen cleaning his shop on Petaling Street May 4, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
Chan Kan Woh, of Chi Shang Mei Enterprises, is seen cleaning his shop on Petaling Street May 4, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

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KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 — Non-essential goods vendors reopened their businesses today amidst a cloud of uncertainty due the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

The federal government's decision to switch to the conditional movement control order (CMCO), instead of the movement control order (MCO), today was to restart its economy, which they claim had cost the country RM2.4 billion in daily losses since mid-March.

Almost all economic sectors and businesses are allowed to reopen from today, subject to strict conditions, following the announcement by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday.

A check by Malay Mail on businesses located in the heart of the city, near the Petaling Street and Chow Kit markets, found several non-essential goods shops reopen today, but with new standard operating procedures (SOP).

Chan Kan Woh, a partner in a ceramic company called Chi Shang Mei Enterprises in Petaling Street said he took the opportunity to reopen today but was not expecting any customers to pop by.

He said they had to close for two months due to the MCO and today they would spend the entire day cleaning up the shop and their items.

Chan, whose business has been in operations for nearly five decades, sells ceramic pots, spoons, forks, drinking glasses as well as Chinese cutlery and dining sets. His shop is adorned from wall to wall with colourful and creative ceramics mostly for eating and cooking purposes while other items were decorative in nature.

“Most of our customers here, especially when considering our shop location, are from walk-ins,” Chan told Malay Mail while keeping a one metre distance and wearing a face mask.

“I do not expect more people to come in today or in the next week though. Give it a month and then we shall see what happens.

“For now we are taking down the name, phone numbers and IC numbers before they enter. That’s all we can do now, everything else is beyond our control and since for two months no business we also have no money so we will slowly wait and sell our items till business picks up again.”

A woman is seen choosing stalks of flowers at a florist in Kuala Lumpur May 4, 2020.
A woman is seen choosing stalks of flowers at a florist in Kuala Lumpur May 4, 2020.

The same situation applied to a florist shop Flora Life Centre. They also took down the names and phone numbers of customers and conducted temperature checks on anyone coming in.

One of their staff, who wished to be known only as Joanne, said they were selling their flowers online throughout the MCO.

Since today they were allowed to open, her boss decided to open the store and adhere to the new norms while testing the market out.

“We’ve had delivery requests as well during the MCO so there was some business but not like the usual volume,” said Joanne who hails from Sabah.

“Today we opened very early, 8am, to sort of test the market and see what the situation in the city is like. Admittedly it’s still quiet and there aren’t many people around which is a far cry from the normal days where this place is full of tourists and locals alike.

“For now we will stay open till the evening but we are not sure what time we should close. We are playing it by ear. However we will definitely follow the new social norms until the government says otherwise,” she added.

Mark Lem, owner of a sundry shop called Chai Huat Hin, that also sells traditional Chinese products, was open throughout the MCO.

When Malay Mail visited his shop there was plenty of activity and a small crowd of elderly Chinese men and women who were waiting outside.

Reason being, Mark was only allowing one customer in the shop at a time. This was due to the tight and narrow spacing within his shop as it was packed with products.

“We’ve been here since 1973 and this Covid-19 situation is truly unprecedented,” Mark told Malay Mail.

“We didn’t have too much of a hard time during the MCO as we were doing online sales and delivery. The nature of our business meant we catered to a lot of people.

“We had a feeling that we may see some walk in customers today as some people may take the opportunity to go out albeit for a little while, and so we prepared the flyers and print out and pasted them at the shop entrance so people don’t crowd inside,” added Mark.

A worker hangs up a notice detailing new standard operating procedures during the conditional movement control at a Chinese sundry shop in Kuala Lumpur May 4, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon
A worker hangs up a notice detailing new standard operating procedures during the conditional movement control at a Chinese sundry shop in Kuala Lumpur May 4, 2020. ― Picture by Shafwan Zaidon

Mark like Chan also felt it would take about a month or two for locals to venture out without fear and for the government to consider opening our borders once more, allowing tourists back into the country.

Tengku Mohammad Razif, 25, a shop supervisor operating a Tune mobile phone service and sales shop in KL Sentral said today was the first day they opened since MCO was enforced.

“I prefer to come to work than stay at home,” Razif told Malay Mail.

“I usually will see around 100 customers a day on a normal day. Since we just opened today, I have no idea how things will turn out but I have a feeling we will be back to business as usual pretty soon,” said Razif who has been working at the shop for two years.

“There are pros and cons to reopening businesses now. When the MCO was ongoing the economy wasn’t moving so the government had to take steps to sort of reinvigorating the economy hence businesses being allowed to open now.

“On the flip side, this Covid-19 virus is still out there so the initiatives we need to take are these precautions like taking names and doing temperature checks, keeping a distance from one another and sanitising our hands, until there comes a time when we are told that it’s no longer a threat and our lives are safe,” he said.

Putrajaya is set to lift the MCO on May 12 but many are still skeptical about it.

Yesterday more than 430,000 signed an online petition to urge the government to cancel this decision to reopen business today.

Hundreds or even thousands more individuals have been signing the online petition at Change.org, with more signatures added on by the minute.

The government, however, is arguing that the economy is in free fall and they needed to do something to rejig the economy hence the relaxation of certain businesses today.

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