Retailers and mall associations slam health minister, HIDE for ‘stigmatising’ shopping centres as possible Covid-19 hotspots

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A general view outside Sogo complex during the three-day closure rule for premises flagged as potential hotspots under the government’s Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement system in Kuala Lumpur, May 9, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Lati
A general view outside Sogo complex during the three-day closure rule for premises flagged as potential hotspots under the government’s Hotspot Identification for Dynamic Engagement system in Kuala Lumpur, May 9, 2021. — Picture by Firdaus Lati

KUALA LUMPUR, May 18 — Several shopping mall and retail advocate groups have lambasted Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba for supposedly “stigmatising” shopping centres as potential Covid-19 hotspots based on the Hotspot Identification by Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) list.

The group, in a joint statement today, stated that they are aggrieved at how mall operators are penalised despite taking extensive measures to ensure that only low-risk individuals are allowed to enter their premises.

“We should treat the situation at the source, ie for the rakyat to stay at home and not make the venue, the malls, suffer any punishment for any inadvertent outings by the rakyat.

“As such, we feel totally aggrieved by the way HIDE is used to stigmatise the malls especially when the malls have immediately and diligently rearranged the gate-keeping process to ensure that the MySejahtera system accurately records the information and that the data collected when used by the HIDE system is not distorted. We believe the minister may have been misinformed of the real situation and will not penalise the malls due to no fault of the malls,” said the statement.

The statement was jointly issued by the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, Malaysia Retailers Association, Malaysia Retail Chain Association and the Bumiputera Retailers Organisation.

Yesterday, during his weekly virtual press conference with the Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Khairy Jamaluddin, Dr Adham expressed his concern that some families were gathering at shopping malls for Raya celebrations to circumvent movement control order (MCO) restrictions barring home visits during the festive season.

The group also stressed that there is no way for mall operators to determine whether an individual is part of a family gathering or that they have any justification to stop low-risk individuals from entering their premises.

“It is not conceivable that malls be penalised for having admitted only low-risk family members who have visited together as a family outing.

“There is no way for the mall to determine if the individuals are part of a family outing group nor it is wrong for a family to go out together as a family outing, especially when the shoppers are complying with the relevant SOPs and complying with social distancing. In any case, members of the same family household do not practise and it is not practical to practise social distancing at home.

“Any member of the public can come to shopping malls so long they are in the low-risk category and we have no way of stopping anyone from entering the mall to shop or do their errands including buying essentials and takeaway meals, or as indicated, even meet up.

“The onus must be on the rakyat to refrain from such gatherings as it is not up to malls to be the police nor do we have any such rights.

“If indeed, the HIDE information reports that families are meeting up at malls during festive events, we would assume this is for purchase of essentials, takeaway meals and/or shopping since sit-down meals and dine-ins are strictly not permitted,” said the statement.

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