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KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 20 — Families yesterday leaped at the opportunity to visit two of the country’s top tourist attractions — Zoo Negara and Sunway Lagoon — after both started welcoming visitors again, amid more relaxed rules for the ongoing conditional movement control order (CMCO) that will last until December 31.
Demonstrating a measured and SOP-compliant excitement to keep Covid-19 at bay, the families that Malay Mail spoke to confessed they remained fairly wary but felt it was safe enough to visit as both facilities feature open-air attractions across an expansive area.
On a cool Saturday morning, Zoo Negara reopened its gates to a flock of families who had happily waited in a light drizzle ahead of time.
Parents could be seen running after their excited offspring to herd them back in line before heading in. The children were clearly happy to be out of the house and ready to see their favourite animals up close after months of being cooped up indoors.
Not even a little rain could dampen their spirits.
Nur, 28, who was with her daughter and son, said she heard on Friday that the zoo was reopening.
“We dropped by last week, but we didn't know the zoo was closed so when we heard it was open, we jumped! This morning, we woke up the kids early and came straight here.
Her husband Hezlan, 30, added: “It’s really refreshing to finally be able to take the kids out. They've been stuck at home for so long. They needed this trip.”
Azizi, 34, said his four children have been stuck at home since March after the movement control order (MCO) was imposed.
“It's about time they get to do kids things like this, looking at the animals they love. I know my kids love animals, so a trip to the zoo makes them really happy.
“I’m still afraid of Covid-19. I won't take my kids to crowded places, like malls and such. The risk is higher there. The zoo, however, is a huge place and out in the open. Even though there are a lot of people, there is still plenty of space, so there is more distance between my family and others,” he added.
Shazreen, 32, said it was nice seeing families at the zoo, especially after all the news about its financial woes.
“So when we heard on the radio that the zoo was open, we made plans and came with our son.
“As for Covid-19, I feel that the zoo is big enough for us to ensure physical distancing, if everyone is disciplined enough. I know I make sure to keep my son close to us,” she told Malay Mail.
Sree Kumar, 42, said his two children had been feeling very bored at home since school closed, and that he has been going on drives with his son ever since travel across districts was permitted again during the CMCO to keep his child mentally stimulated.
“We just happened to pass by the zoo today and we saw that it was open! I looked at my wife and my kids were already saying, ‘Please dad, let's go’. I made a U-turn and here we are!
“I knew the zoo had been closed for a while, especially with all their financial woes, but it's great news that they are opening their doors again. And the animals look healthy!” he told Malay Mail.
Malay Mail understands that a maximum of 1,250 people are allowed in the grounds of Zoo Negara at any one time, with opening hours now from 9am to 4pm.
During Malay Mail’s Saturday morning visit, the crowd, numbering at least in the hundreds, could be seen well spread out across the grounds that cover 110 acres of land. There were also sufficient personnel to help manage the crowd and conduct regular surface sanitisation.
The star attraction was the panda enclosure which had a long queue, as only a maximum of 20 can enter at any one time. By 1pm, there was no more parking space left. This was only the second day after its reopening, with Friday being relatively quieter in comparison.
About 30km away, on the same Saturday morning, Sunway Lagoon park employees spotted by Malay Mail were seen welcoming guests on the theme park’s first day of reopening. They carried placards with reminders to wear face masks and to comply with physical distancing requirements
While Sunway Lagoon features six parks, many families came with their young children in tow already kitted out in wetsuits for fun at the water park. Entry to the theme park on the morning of Malay Mail’s visit was calm and orderly.
Inside, no crowds or long queues were seen, with more than enough space for families to be spread out far apart from each other, including at the water park attractions.
Selangor resident Ahmad Afzal Zamani, 36, said his four children, aged one to nine, had longed to visit Sunway Lagoon again, after a previous outing last year, and they had made immediate plans as soon as the theme park announced that it would be reopening.
His wife Rohaida Zainordin, 36, said they were there early to avoid the crowd because Covid-19 remained a worry for them. She added that the family are Sunway Lagoon regulars, and that they bought a special package during the 12.12 sale for yesterday’s visit.
“Normally, we will go to Australia’s (theme park) Warner Bros. Movie World, but we can’t go now because of Covid-19. So we came here, and we had come here before, it is really best lah,” she said, while her husband said Zoo Negara would be next on the family’s list.
Sunway Berhad sustainable development executive Ng Poh Li, 28, said she came with her husband Au Wei Jing and their one-year-old toddler as she wanted to support her company.
After seeing all her travel plans disrupted due to the CMCO and unable to return to her hometown in another state, Ng said the family does not have plans to visit any tourist attractions at the moment due to Covid-19 concerns, but felt assured by the safety precautions at Sunway Lagoon.
“And it’s very spacious, won’t be too close distance with others,” she said of Sunway Lagoon’s park grounds, noting that the family had made multiple visits after purchasing an annual pass last September and that they had immediately jumped at the chance to drop by yesterday after receiving an email notification of the park’s reopening.
Banker Rozy Mohd Zin, 40, together with her husband and two children aged eight and 10, said the family usually visited Sunway Lagoon once a month with their annual pass, but had been unable to do so since March due to the various movement control orders as well as Covid-19 concerns.
Sunway Lagoon was closed from March 18 to July 3 due to the MCO and other variations, and was open from July 4 to October 13, before being forced to close from October 14 due to the reintroduction of the CMCO in the Klang Valley until its reopening yesterday.
“Fortunately, Sunway Lagoon is very good, and extended the annual pass’ validity by three months. Thank you, we appreciate Sunway Lagoon very much for extending the validity by another three months,” Rozy said.
Like many others, Rozy’s travel plans this year have been disrupted, including a cancelled June trip to Langkawi. A year-end visit to Cherating had also been on the cards but is now dependent on Covid-19 case numbers, she added.
With no plans to head to other attractions in Kuala Lumpur due to Covid-19 concerns, she said she was only visiting Sunway Lagoon with the family since they hold an annual pass, adding that the family would have left immediately if they had seen a long queue.
Rashidi Haspar and Zahabiah Mohamad, both aged 45, and with their four children aged 11 to 18, said yesterday’s outing was spontaneous with tickets bought on the spot.
“We didn’t plan before this, we also didn’t know that today is the first day (of reopening),” Rashidi said, before adding that he believes everything will be fine as long as they follow the SOPs. They too have no plans to visit any other tourist attractions.
Mohammed Khaled and his friend Mohammed Humaid, both 20 and English language students in Kuala Lumpur from Yemen, have spent their first year in Malaysia experiencing the MCO and its various iterations.
Mohammed Khaled said he had waited for about three to four months to visit Sunway Lagoon again on his annual park pass after his first visit before the CMCO, noting: “But today I come, I’m very happy... I think it’s very good, thanks for the government, thanks for everyone to say we can come and enjoy.”
He wanted to venture to Langkawi and Genting Highlands but had to put all such plans on hold due to the CMCO, but hopes he can do so once the rules are relaxed.
Sunway Theme Parks executive director Calvin Ho told Malay Mail that Sunway Lagoon covers 88 acres of land and can comfortably accommodate 50,000 people, but will now only operate with half this number with the new regulations imposed.
Commenting on the first day of reopening for Sunway Lagoon, Ho said: “We are very happy that all our guests have been abiding by our SOPs to keep them and our staff safe.”
“The greenlight for the opening of the tourism sectors is a huge relief for all of us, especially for those supporting the industry in the downstream economy. We all have to learn how to coexist with this virus as we go about our lives,” he added.
Malay Mail understands that more than 1,000 people visited Sunway Lagoon on its first day of reopening yesterday, while Sunway Theme Parks confirmed that the theme park had average daily visitors of between 500 and 600 on weekdays and between 3,000 and 5,000 daily average visitors during the July to October period this year.
Where else can you go and are they open already?
On December 18 (Friday), Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced that the government has agreed to allow the opening from December 19 onwards of tourism and cultural activities in CMCO areas including corporate meetings, conventions, conferences, exhibitions, craft carnivals, travel fairs, zoos, farms, extreme parks, adventure parks, nature parks, recreation parks, and aquariums.
Also allowed to open from December 19 onwards are museum, art galleries, libraries, cultural and heritage arts villages and centre, stages for cultural shows, education centres’ exhibitions, family entertainment outlets and theme parks including dry and water parks, indoor funfairs, games arcades, children gyms, edutainment places, games entertainment featuring machines and technology.
The rules for the reopening of such facilities were however with the condition of visitors at half capacity to enable physical distancing, while stage shows are allowed without any audience attending.
Aquarium Aquaria KLCC, which had been closed since October 14 due to the CMCO in the Klang Valley except for a few days in November, reopened its doors on December 4.
Berjaya Times Square Theme Park in Kuala Lumpur also resumed operations on December 19.
Muzium Negara will reopen tomorrow, from 9am to 5pm daily except for the first Monday each month, with entry tickets at RM2 for Malaysians aged 13 to 54, and RM1 for Malaysians aged above 55, and free for Malaysians aged below 12.
Also closed since October 14, indoor family themed learning centre KidZania Kuala Lumpur will be welcoming visitors once more on December 23 (Wednesday).