Monday, February 22, 2021

8pm limit for food outlets to slow down night movement, but govt says ‘can revisit’

Senior minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob says restrictions have been eased for more business categories under the MCO this time around.

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Putrajaya has defended the 8pm time limit for restaurants and food deliveries as able to reduce the movement of people at night, saying however that the ruling could be revised following appeals from businesses.

“There will be less movement after this time with all business operations required to close at 8pm,” Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob told MalaysiaNow.

The move drew criticism from a group of opposition MPs this week who said it was an incovenience to those who need to buy food after work as well as a hindrance to reviving the economy.

They also called for eateries to be allowed to open for takeaway food according to their licensed hours.

Ismail said allowing them to operate would mean that the movement control order (MCO) was no difference from the conditional MCO, under which Covid-19 cases had spiked.

But he said the National Security Council (NSC), the main body tasked with managing the pandemic, would deliberate on the matter.

“It will discuss with the health ministry,” he added.

It is understood that the matter was raised during the NSC’s daily meeting yesterday, and that an announcement will be made soon.

Former health director-general Dr Christopher Lee said he did not foresee more infections if only takeaways and deliveries were allowed.

“The main concern is when people are dining in at restaurants,” he told MalaysiaNow.

“But as far as takeaways and using food delivery services are concerned, the risk would be low.”

The Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia meanwhile proposed an extension of the closure deadline to 10pm.

“We must take into consideration that there are also people working overnight and they may be hungry, especially frontliners,” said its president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah.

Ismail said the government was aware of the problems faced by businesses, and that the MCO this time had eased restrictions on more business categories.

“During the first MCO, we closed all business activities, but now we allow them to operate subject to some limitations as we have taken into account the difficulties of business owners and the public,” he said.

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