The owner of a major hypermarket chain in the country has urged the government to reconsider its criteria for the closure of businesses under Covid-19 mitigation measures, saying businesses will continue to collapse if the lockdown persists in its current form.
Ameer Ali Mydeen, managing director of Mydin Mohamed Holdings Bhd, said the approach of closing down businesses to reduce Covid-19 infections should be amended.
Speaking to MalaysiaNow, he suggested a shift away from the strategy of classifying businesses and service providers as essential and non-essential, adding that the current lockdown appeared to be more of a “purchase control order”.
“As business owners, we understand that to stop the spread of Covid-19, the government will have to use lockdowns as a mechanism,” he told MalaysiaNow.
“We understand this mechanism and we agree that this must be done. But what we are seeing now is more of a purchase control order where people cannot shop for the items they need just because they are not considered essential according to the government.”
Citing the government’s recent announcement that stationery shops would be allowed to reopen, he questioned the decision-making process behind the essential services list, saying many other businesses that were initially closed should now be considered essential as well.
“The government must not have an essential and non-essential list because everything is essential to somebody,” he said.
“This is not the way to make a decision because it’s a very ‘fire-fighting’ decision,” he added. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Ameer suggested that the government instead group businesses and service providers that could increase the spread of Covid-19 on a “negative list”, saying decisions on which businesses can be allowed to operate should be based on their Covid-19 risk.
“For example, the negative list could include businesses that attract large crowds in small spaces,” he said.
“If you close down a business like a car wash because it is not essential, what does it have to do with Covid-19? You cannot say that car washes are not important because for the person who runs the car wash, it is very essential.”
Ameer also said the current lockdown is taking a bigger toll on people and businesses as they can no longer sustain themselves as much as they had during the first lockdown in March last year due to shrinking resources.
“People followed the rules during the first lockdown because they were fearful and they still had money,” he said.
“While businesses like Mydin are not badly affected, we are still struggling,” he added. “Our sales of food and basic necessities have gone down by more than 20%. This means that people don’t even have money now to buy necessities.
“This is very dangerous for the industry and for our people.”