With the vaccination programme accelerated, a group of retail and shopping mall associations has urged the government to reopen the retail sector by 15 July or when 10% of Malaysia’s population is fully vaccinated.
Data from the COVID-19 Vaccine Supply Access Guarantee Special Committee (JKJAV) showed that 18.7% of the population had been given their first dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of 2 July, while 7.5% have been fully inoculated after receiving their second dose, reported The Edge Markets.
“We are making a desperate appeal for all malls and all retail outlets to reopen by July 15, 2021, or when the 10% vaccination target is achieved, whichever is earlier (except for those operations that cannot meet the social distancing criteria and would be crowding),” said the group during a joint media conference.
The group comprise the Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), Bumiputera Retailers Organization (BRO), Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK), Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA), Malaysian REIT Managers Association (MRMA), as well as the Malaysian Association of Theme Park and Family Attractions (MATFA).
The group noted that the enhanced movement control order (EMCO) enforced across the country causes unnecessary damage to the retail sector.
“Going forward, we trust that any lockdowns will be judiciously determined based on the locality and neighbourhoods that are infected with significant clusters, and not to impose nationwide lockdowns unnecessarily and penalise those areas that are low-risk,” it said as quoted by The Edge Markets.
They added that economic sectors that operated under strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) and achieved low-risk environment should not be made “to suffer for the inability of those that have caused the infections due to their lackadaisical non-compliance with the SOPs”.
Data from the Ministry of Health (MOH) showed that the retail and shopping sector, including those located outside shopping areas, accounted for just 0.8% of all COVID-19 cases in May, said the group.
This indicates that the retail and mall industry strictly adhered to the SOPs.
Meanwhile, the retail sector contributed 34.6% or RM497 billion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018.
“It cannot be denied that the shopping mall and retail industry contributes significantly to our economy and foreign direct investment (FDI) by new brands and retailers, and we must make all efforts to preserve the performance of the sector.
“Our market size is relatively small and it is challenging to entice foreign brands to our country to add diversity for attracting tourists, thus we need to make all efforts to retain those who already have a presence in our country. Currently, without tourist arrivals, this is even more critical considering that we can only rely on domestic consumption to pull through the current precarious period,” explained the group.
It noted that the World Health Organization (WHO) had warned against the imposition of lockdowns since it could extremely damage the economy.
“We have to accept that [COVID-19] will remain part of our lives moving forward and the economy cannot afford to remain closed continually. Otherwise, we foresee that almost 500,000 employees engaged in the shopping mall and retail industry will eventually be laid off,” said the group.
Such massive lay-offs usually come with shop closures and business failures from which the industry may not recover.
“All of us, whether we are malls or retail operators, have been valiantly struggling for the past 16 months with critical cash flows just to keep our heads above water and any prolongation will simply be the final knell for our businesses and the industry as a whole,” said the group.