KUALA LUMPUR, July 12 — As more and more restrictions are relaxed throughout the country — hairdressers, gyms, cinemas and schools reopening — there is some anxiety about complacency among Malaysians.
Are people still social distancing? What about masks? A quick check on social media shows people meeting up in big groups — even if that is allowed now — and partying. No masks.
But one month into the recovery movement control order (RMCO) which began on June 10, it looks like there are instances of complacency but it is not the order of the day among the majority of Malaysians.
A quick check by Malay Mail of certain areas in the Klang Valley showed that generally less than 10 per cent of the public did not adhere to the Health Ministry’s recommendations to wear face masks.
Social distancing is still practised at shopping malls such as the Curve, Ikea and Nu Sentral; temperatures are checked by security officers at the entrance of malls, people line up to scan QR codes or write in log books before entering shops.
One security officer told Malay Mail that there are still those who try to argue against observing proper social distancing or registering.
He spoke about this group of about 30 people who were waiting to enter a shop. “I reminded them to observe social distancing but after a while they began to cluster up into their respective groups again.
“It’s tiring reminding them again and again but after a while, they just ignore you. One woman even complained to me, asking why she couldn’t stand closer to her daughter,” he explained.
It was amusing to note that when a crowd noticed Malay Mail’s photographer snapping their pictures, they immediately began to observe the proper social distancing. But with a slightly sour expression.
A few were overheard whispering among themselves that they were being observed by the media.
At the same time, the Rela officer admitted that he does not know the maximum number of customers allowed into the shop.
“The management will contact us to allow them in or to stop them from going in. I’m not certain how many are allowed into the premises at one time,” he said.
Meanwhile, at mmCineplexes @ E-Curve, manager Mohd Muhaimin Jamaludin said that his team barely encounters any difficult customers and that the majority of them are very co-operative.
“I would say less than 5 per cent of our customers refuse to register. But we have a system — if you don’t register, you can’t buy a ticket. So, they end up coming back to register anyway.
“Similarly, once they enter the movie theatre, most of them are very disciplined about observing social distancing. There were a few groups that tried to sit together but went back to their respective seats after being told off by our ushers.
“The ones who try to sit together are mostly teenagers between 15 to 18 years old and they come in big groups,” said Muhaimin.
He added that ensuring compliance with the cinema’s standard operating procedure (SOP) requires a concerted effort by everyone in his team.
The ushers would check the halls at least once an hour while the projectionist would observe the crowd while the ushers are not there.
If the projectionists see a group or a couple sitting next to each other, he would then alert the ushers to quickly go in and ensure that everyone does not breach the SOP.
When asked if the cinema industry is recovering under the new normal, Muhaimin said he was concerned because at most, his cinema only gets around 100 customers a day.
“I used to have a daily manpower of around 18 people, including our part-timers. Now, I need fewer than 10 to operate daily. I’m not sure if people are afraid to come to the cinema because of Covid or it’s because we don’t have any new movies to attract customers.
“Some of our customers would register, wander in to see what movies are available and then they just walk out again. I think we will find out next week if they don’t want to watch old flicks or they are more afraid of Covid since Train to Busan 2 will release on July 15,” he said.
Another hit to Muhaimin’s operations is the fact that the mall closes at 9pm. Up till last week, their last show during the RMCO was at 8.45pm but now they are trying their luck and pushing for their last show to be screened at 9.15pm.
Unfortunately for the cinema, there have not been many takers either.
Meanwhile, on the streets of Brickfields, Taman Tun Dr Ismail and Petaling Jaya, the Malay Mail team noted that there were slightly more people who refused to wear face masks when compared to those in the shopping centres.
When approached they were rather brusque and brushed off requests for interviews while some were more than happy to explain why they were not wearing a mask.
“It’s not required to wear face masks when it is not crowded,” explained 40-year-old Muhd Azhar Abdul Wahab who was out on a laundry run.
“I will wear it when I go to shopping malls, buying groceries or when I see there’s a crowd but if there’s no crowd, I’m not required to wear it. At the same time, my family and I don’t go out unless it is very necessary.
“There are times I don’t even send my kids to the nursery if I feel it is unsafe for them to be there. What is important is to check MySejahtera before I head to any location. If MySejahtera says everything there is okay, then I will go.”
Similarly, 38-year-old Indrani Kuppon said she only takes off the mask when she is on the streets and walking for a short distance.
The heavily pregnant woman was accompanied by her two small children as she was heading to her car from her office.
She said she finds it very difficult to breathe in the mask due to Malaysia’s hot and humid climate coupled with her current condition.
“I have my mask on standby. If I go to malls, if there’s a big crowd or if I’m at work I will wear it. I’m pregnant right now and I’m in one of the vulnerable groups.
“But when it’s very hot and humid and also because of my pregnancy, I find breathing when wearing a mask to be very difficult. That’s why you caught me without one,” said the mother of soon-to-be three who works at the Malaysian Kennel Association with a smile.