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Most in Ipoh and Penang welcome relaxations for the fully vaccinated but remain cautious

IPOH — Most eateries and hotels in both Penang and Ipoh welcome the government’s decision to allow dine-in and hotel stays for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 but some remain cautious because of the high number of cases nationwide.

A customer browses through Konda Kondi Cafe and Bistro's menu in Ipoh

A customer browses through Konda Kondi Cafe and Bistro's menu in Ipoh

IPOH — Most eateries and hotels in both Penang and Ipoh welcome the government’s decision to allow dine-in and hotel stays for those who are fully vaccinated against Covid-19 but some remain cautious because of the high number of cases nationwide.

Even individuals who are fully vaccinated are cautious about eating outside as most of them fear becoming carriers and spreading the coronavirus to others who have yet to be vaccinated.

In fact, some eateries like Ipoh’s famous Nasi Kandar Ayam Merah (popularly referred to as Nasi Ganja) have chosen not to open for dine-in yet.

Its manager Mohamed Nihmaphullah Syed Mustffa said there were no proper guidelines given yet to restaurants on opening for dine-in.

He said their workers have yet to be vaccinated and customers who have not been fully vaccinated may argue and insist on dining in.

“We will decide after the government announces the complete SOPs for dining in,” he said.

Another eatery in Ipoh ― Konda Kondi Cafe and Bistro ― has also decided to wait and see for now.

Owner Azril Aryandi Zambri said they will focus on delivery and takeaway for now and see how their customers react to being allowed to dine in.

“No point to have dine-in when there are few customers but if there is demand then we will open for dine-in next week,” he said.

However, he said many people in Perak, especially Ipoh, are yet to be vaccinated so this means there will not be many who can take advantage of the leeway given to the fully vaccinated.

Meanwhile, over in Penang, Forest Canteen Cafe owner Vin Chee said they will continue with the current take-away and delivery system until September.

“We will need to observe and see how it is going first before we open for dine-in,” he said.

He said all of his staff, including himself, have not received their vaccinations yet but he plans to buy a Covid-19 vaccination package for the whole team.

Another Penang cafe, Lunabar Coffee, is also not ready to open for dine-in.

Its owner, Ms Jasmine Toh, said most of the workers have only received their first dose of the vaccine.

There are other establishments in Penang that are ready to open for dine-in as it would mean more business compared to only serving takeaway and delivery.

Owner of Lomaq Coffee, Mr Shamsul Munir, said he will be opening for dine-in from today onwards as most of his customers prefer dining in.

He said all of his staff have received their first dose.

Nurilkarim Razha of Jawi House said they might open for dine-in on Friday but he is not sure of the SOPs yet as some of their staff have only received one dose of the vaccine.

He said they have been receiving enquiries on when they will be opening for dine-in from customers so he believes there are customers who are keen to eat in the restaurant once they open for dine-in.

The Malaysian Association of Hotels Penang chapter chairman Raj Kumar said there are grey areas regarding the dine-in SOPs.

“According to the guidelines from the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry, the establishment’s staff must be fully vaccinated too but how is this possible when most of the staff have only got their first dose or some are still waiting?” he said.

He said the hospitality industry was not given any priority in terms of vaccination so not all of the workers in the industry have been fully vaccinated or have even received their first dose.

“So, it is useless to allow dine-in with this condition. There was no priority for us to get vaccinated, most of the workers are still waiting for their vaccine appointments, and yet, the condition to allow dine-in was for the staff to be fully vaccinated,” he said.

He said the tourism ministry should have arranged for mass vaccination for those in the hospitality and tourism industry so that when the industry opens up, all of the workers would have been fully vaccinated.

“However, there were no such efforts. So, instead, we have been trying to find other ways, asking for help from NGOs and other industries and some of the workers have opted for AstraZeneca jabs on their own,” he said.

He said there are about 8,000 workers in the hospitality industry in Penang and about 90 per cent have received their first dose while the remaining 10 per cent are still waiting to receive theirs.

“By the time we wait for all workers to be fully vaccinated, it will be the end of October or early November,” he said.


Even members of the public who are fully vaccinated are still cautious and do not seem excited over the leeways given to them to dine in at establishments and stay in hotels.

According to Ipoh-based dentist, Dr Kayathri Jayagopi, she doesn’t feel safe about dining out at this point due to the rise in cases.

“People who have got both the doses are still getting infected. We lost some of them due to this even when they were fully vaccinated,” she said.

She added that cases are rising fast in Ipoh so everyone should be treated as possible carriers at this point.

“Therefore, until the cases start reducing I would probably avoid dining out. Maybe not for the next one month,” she said.

Her views were echoed by at least 15 other fully-vaccinated individuals in Penang and Perak polled by Malay Mail.

Most of them cited concerns about the rising cases, the Delta variant, risks of being infected despite being fully vaccinated and risks of becoming carriers and spreading it to their loved ones at home.

Despatch rider Richard Nathan said he didn’t want to take the risk of dining out as his wife is pregnant.

Another rider, Mr Yogeswaran Munusamy, said there was no certainty that it is safe to dine-in at eateries right now.

Associate Professor on Public Health Dr Saraswathi Bina Rai said she too is not ready to eat out as there is still too much infection around.

She anticipated that cases would come down slowly but for now, if there was no necessity to go out, she wouldn’t.

“But it has to be this way, open up slowly as it cannot be done at one go,” she said on the leeways introduced for those fully vaccinated.

Interpreter Siti Zubaidah Mohd Lani said she too would not eat out just yet as she has young children at home.

“Even though the three adults at home are vaccinated, we might bring back the virus and infect the young children at home so I don’t want to take the risk,” she said.

Ms Abbey Ong was concerned about the Delta variant which is deemed more contagious and even those who are fully vaccinated can contract this variant.

“Knowing that our healthcare system is overwhelmed, I would rather be safe by continuing with the SOPs to wear double masks when outside, eat at home, to protect myself and my family,” she said.


On the leeway for the fully vaccinated to stay in hotels and book homestays within the same state, Mr Raj said this would give the hotels in Penang a boost.

“Since last year, 11 hotels have shut down and many hotels are also temporarily closed these few months since they were not allowed to operate,” he said.

He said many of the hotel workers are suffering with much reduced income, some only getting RM600 per month, since the hotels were temporarily closed and they can’t go to work.

He said by allowing the hotels to reopen, it would bring up the occupancy rates of the beach and city hotels, especially on weekends.

“We expect some of these hotels will be getting bookings from this weekend onwards,” he said.

He also hoped more socio-economic sectors will reopen so that the economy can be revived and people can get back their livelihoods.

Association of Tourism Attractions Penang (ATAP) chairman Ch’ng Huck Theng said reopening of the hospitality sector is a good thing but it should be done in stages.

“Allowing domestic tourism is highly welcomed and applauded,” he said.

However, he said the government should still restrict those who are in high-risk groups, such as senior citizens, from going out in public spaces too often for the next one to two months.

“We need to take step-by-step precautions so that we can detect and manage the situation if there is a sudden spike,” he said.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that those who have been fully vaccinated will be allowed to dine in again in states that are in at least Phase Two of the National Recovery Plan (NRP).

States that are in Phase Two now are Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Perak, Penang and Sabah, while those in Phase Three are Perlis, Labuan and Sarawak.

He also announced that those who are fully vaccinated can stay at homestays and hotels within the same state under Phase Two for tourism purposes. MALAY MAIL

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Covid-19 Malaysia lockdown Penang Ipoh

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