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'30 pct of shops at malls have closed; 300,000 workers lost jobs over past 16 months'

KUALA LUMPUR: As the impending review of the Movement Control Order 3.0 nears, shopping mall and retail industries nationwide are appealing to the government to judiciously research the data and incidences of Covid-19 cases by economic sector and by locality.

They said the current MCO 3.0, which will end on June 28, has been drastically and tragically damaging to business and the economy.

They described the recently-announced National Recovery Plan, which is based on the threshold of absolute numbers of Covid-19 infections, as "too broad-brushed" and imprecise as it could result in unnecessary losses.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association (PPK), Malaysia Retailers Association (MRA), Malaysia Retail Chain Association (MRCA), Bumiputra Retailers Organisation (BRO) and the Selangor and Kuala Lumpur Electrical Home Appliances Dealers' Association (SWEDA) said the Health Ministry's data showed that the retail and shopping sector contributed merely 0.8 per cent of overall cases in May.

This was prior to the MCO 3.0 on June 1 and the significantly improved and extremely low figures was a testament to the retail and mall industries' strict adherence to the Standard Operating Procedures.

"We should not be unduly penalised with closure from operating. Therefore, we believe the retail and shopping sector should be reopened immediately to provide essential and other services to the community without risk of infectivity.

"Activities that are not able to comply with the social distancing requirements and crowding have already been listed in the negative list, while congregation and promotional events have been barred.

"The public have also cut down their mall visits to a maximum of two hours while diligently practising physical distancing and wearing masks at all times.

"Malls only allow entry of those whose MySejahtera status is 'Low-Risk' and whose body temperature is below 37.5 degrees Celsius.

"Therefore, malls are safe places to be and serve as avenues for some relief, both physically and mentally, while shopping for necessities.

"We appeal to the government to take all these positive factors into account in the upcoming review and allow the immediate reopening of all trades in the malls, except for those in the negative list," the associations said in a statement today.

They added that that currently, up to 30 per cent of shops in malls have been closed due to the adverse conditions of the past 16 months amid the Covid-19 pandemic, which also saw some 300,000 personnel losing their jobs.

The associations foresee that in the event the mall and retail industry, including street front shops are not reopened by early July, another 50 per cent of the remainder will be closing their doors for good.

They said these closures may include prominent domestic and international retail brands with more employees at risk of being laid off.

They also cautioned that once international brands exit from Malaysia, it will be doubly difficult to attract these brands to return.

"With these massive lay-offs and shop closures, the entire retail and shopping malls industries will be grievously and critically damaged and will need massive efforts and time to rebuild its ecosystem, or it will permanently close and the retail supply chain will be deeply fractured.

"Any prolongation in reopening will cause irreparable damage to both the retail and shopping mall industry which may not recover for the next few years, leaving us far behind in the economic recovery process.

"Therefore, we seek the government's urgent consideration to mitigate the catastrophic but real scenario as predicted," they said.

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