KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 21 — The government will now allow restaurants, food stalls and food deliveries in states under the movement control order (MCO) to operate until 10pm starting tomorrow, reversing a week-long rule of only allowing operations until 8pm.
Senior Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced this revised government policy today, following strong public criticism over social media and even complaints which he received personally about the 8pm rule.
“Finally, the government — today I wish to announce — we agree to extend the operations of eateries and restaurants until 10pm starting from tomorrow,” he said today.
“However, dine-in in restaurants are still not allowed, it still remains as takeaways. Orders for food deliveries, we also open until 10pm. Anything related to food, we open until 10pm. Regardless of restaurants, stalls or roadside stalls or hawkers, anything related to food, we allow these to operate until 10pm,” he added.
Separately, in a written statement containing talking points on his press conference, Ismail Sabri said that the government agreed to set extended operating hours of 6am until 10pm from tomorrow onwards for restaurants, food stalls, food trucks, roadside hawkers and roadside food stalls, food courts, hawker centres, kiosks, after receiving advice from and risk assessments by the Health Ministry, with the same operating hours applicable to food delivery services.
With dine-ins still disallowed, the food may only be sold for takeaway, drive-through orders or delivery.
In explaining why the closing time was extended from 8pm to 10pm, Ismail Sabri noted the public’s feedback on the operating hours for food outlets.
“Few days ago, it was trending in social media like Twitter, Facebook, including directly sending WhatsApp to me, comments on my Instagram, all revolving around the citizens’ dissatisfaction and complaints about eateries and restaurants being closed early, which is at 8pm,” he said in his press conference that was broadcast ‘live’ on Facebook.
Ismail Sabri said the government has been holding meetings since last week regarding the restricted operating hours of restaurants following the complaints, and that it had yesterday also discussed this and directed a technical committee comprising the Health Ministry, National Security Council and several agencies or ministries related to the economy to discuss this matter.
“We understand, many said that it is too early to be closed because when they reach home from their workplace, it is already late, so they can’t make it to buy food.
“Also we hear complaints from food operators, especially for food popular at night such as burger and satay,” he said, noting that such food operators had pointed out that their customers usually come after the Muslims’ evening prayer times of Maghrib and Isyak and that the early closure at 8pm would prevent them from carrying out business.
After hearing from both customers who wanted to buy food and food businesses that face problems due to the 8pm rule, Ismail Sabri said that the government had after discussions decided to allow for food businesses’ operating hours to be until 10pm.
The 6am to 8pm operating hours policy for food outlets was announced on January 12 and imposed since January 13 for states that had already came under MCO then.
As early as January 14, which was the second day of MCO for five states and the federal territories, Ismail Sabri had already addressed complaints regarding the 8pm closing time for restaurants, but had at that time said that the government would maintain the 8pm rule for MCO areas.
Frustrated Malaysians had in recent days also propelled the phrase #SiBodohKauDengarSini to be a trending hashtag on Twitter, as they expressed their anger over the early closure of food outlets and food delivery services at 8pm, due to the difficulties faced in procuring food past that hour.
On January 19, Ismail Sabri said that the 8pm rule was discussed by the government, and that the National Security Council had been directed to discuss the matter with the Health Ministry.
The whole of Malaysia — except Sarawak — is currently under MCO until February 4.