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KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 16 — The renewed movement control order (MCO) is notably different from last year’s lockdown in that significantly more types of retailers have kept running.
While the MCO enforced in March 2020 saw only retailers of essential goods remaining open, a wide array of stores — from furniture chain Ikea to jewellers such as Habib — all continue to receive walk-in patrons despite the directive for Malaysians to stay home amid a worsening Covid-19 pandemic.
This was made more curious by the fact that the National Security Council’s standard operating procedures state that up to two members of a household may leave their homes at any time to procure food, medicines, dietary supplements, and basic necessities within 10km of their address.
Malay Mail contacted the police to clarify if the SOPs allowed for visits to retailers of products such as luxury goods that would not reasonably qualify as an essential good.
District police chiefs told Malay Mail that while such retailers did not strictly meet the definition of basic necessities, it may still be permissible to patronise them within the MCO.
Sentul district police chief Assistant Commissioner Beh Eng Lai said it was acceptable to visit, for instance, a music equipment store within a 10km of one’s home if it could be shown that this was in the course of obtaining food, medicines or other basic necessities in the vicinity.
“They must show proof of them having purchased their essential items, and if while at the same time they decided to buy a new guitar, they can,” he told Malay Mail, adding there would be no issue in purchasing both items on the same trip.
However, he said it was not permissible to leave one’s home within the MCO if the sole purpose was to purchase items other than the essentials prescribed under the SOPs.
He added those stopped at roadblocks who could not justify leaving their homes would be turned away.
“Permission is only given to buy food, medicine, or essential items. Permission will not be given to someone to go out just to buy a new guitar or some jewellery,” he asserted.
On Thursday checks by Malay Mail found jewellery, footwear, and even gift stores situated within malls open for business after receiving approval from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry.
This was despite some of these shops not being listed among essential services allowed to continue operating under the MCO.
Affirming the loophole was Brickfields district police chief Assistant Commissioner Anuar Omar, who confirmed that it was permissible to indulge in some new jewellery shopping while out to buy groceries at a nearby mall.
“No, there is no offence being committed,” he said when asked to clarify if the SOPs prohibited the physical purchase of items beyond food, dietary supplements, medicines and basic necessities.
For anything beyond those needs and if the intended destination is beyond the 10km permitted radius, Anuar said prior approval would be required from the police themselves or from the relevant ministries or minister.
Answering in the affirmative but refusing to elaborate was Putrajaya police chief ACP Mohd Fadzil Ali, who only stressed that official police approval was necessary to travel beyond 10km of one’s home address.
“They need to prepare some documentation if they want to purchase anything outside their 10km or outside their districts,” he said.