Good evening fellow Members of the Trade,
Ever since COVID 19 appeared in Malaysia on 4th Feb 2020, it has caused unprecedented challenges and difficulties for everyone and a white paper was also subsequently released to further clarify the ambiguities and sources of support which our members to cope with the initial Movement Control Order. The MCO 1.0 that was launched on 18th Mar 2020 has brought success to curbing the daily rise of new cases where it went to as low as 2 cases per day during 10th Jun 2020. But after 20th Oct, the daily cases continue to spiral upwards which prompt the latest Movement Control Order 2.0 to be reinstated in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Penang, Johor, Sabah by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on 11th Jan 2021 and today, Kelantan also is subjected to MCO 2.0. The MCO 2.0 is now held between 13th Jan 2021 to 26th Jan 2021 with an immediate goal of reducing the daily cases of infection to avoid the imminent collapse of our Health care system. Due to the short notice in regards to the execution of MCO 2.0, we seek to utilize this update to provide and inform our members on the ongoing efforts to assist you to better cope with the ongoing situation.
To date, Malaysia has reached 151’066 cases with another 3’211 daily cases added as of today which contrast greatly when MCO 1.0 started. The current situation has now threatened to put the entire health care system in Malaysia to the brink of collapse in a matter of days as the active cases of 35’253 is a already higher than the total 28’674 beds allocated for COVID 19. In layman terms, this means the current health system is already operating past its capacity as it is now officially 23% over its allocated resources or 6’579 cases. This shall likely begin to compromise other ongoing medical and emergency operations and pose potential risks which must not be underestimated. If COVID daily cases continue at 3’000 or more cases per day, it will take only 7 days to reach the dangerous ratio of 2 COVID patients for every bed available creating unimaginable nightmares for our front line health heroes who have contributed tirelessly. Besides the risk of a full collapse of the health system, it could also pose unprecedented economic issues that shall weaken international confidence.
After the MCO was executed, Malaysia Watch Trade Association received multiple questions from members regarding the legality on the opening of the retail premises to conduct business. Likewise, we have also noted that a small minority of the members have already proceeded to operate their retail premises with approval from the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. With the past year’s record of poor sales, we understand the importance of the coming Chinese New Year season for these watch retailers, especially with the lack of support from the government in this round of MCO 2.0. However, due to the conflicting stance taken between Ministry of International Trade and Industry and National Security Council which is tasked to oversee COVID 19, this has NOT ALLOWED Malaysia Watch Trade Association to categorically state if watch retailing is part of the essential services to legally operate during this MCO.
This is identical to the ongoing discrepancy between two federal ministers regarding the opening vs closure of the public parks that were reported in Malay mail on 15th Jan 2021, written by Mr Radzi Razak.
At the moment, Malaysia Watch Trade Association continues to exhaust its available channels with the relevant authorities in regards to this matter and shall update all its members and fellow state associations once there is confirmation from both ministries to ensure compliance to the law.
While the announcements with the government decision for this current round of Movement Control Order (MCO 20) could be better planned or communicated to reduce and avoid ambiguous areas for our members, Malaysia Watch Trade Association still wishes to advise and appeal to all our fellow members to continue to support and adhere to the initial Movement Control Order which was executed on the 18th Mar 2020 last year thru temporary suspension of retail premises based on moral grounds. This is because all other methods such as Conditional Movement Order Control (CMCO) and Recovery Movement Order Control (RMCO) has all failed to contain the daily rise and the only success so far is still back to the initial MCO which has yield success so far. Other than vaccination which is still months away, this remains, unfortunately, the best alternative we have at the moment.
Other than the moral grounds towards doing our bit to curb daily new cases, we also wish to state that the following factors have been taken into consideration leading to this painful advice which we hope our fellow members can adhere to:
(1) Almost zero demand / Customers: We have observed from feedback on those operate so far that there are no clients into malls. This is hugely due to the restrictive movement such as the 10km radius placed on end consumers and the high infection rates which curb any possible walk-in traffic.
(2) Safety of our fellow Watch colleagues: Unlike the first MCO or CMCO where the daily infection rates are at most in hundreds, the current infection rate is unprecedented hitting record highs
of more than 3000 over the last one week. With the health system running way above full capacity, we don’t wish to witness anyone from our watch industry with the possibility of infection especially with an important festival season in less than one month away.
(3) Legality: The ongoing discrepancies between ministries are ongoing and there is no clear direction yet which may lead to unnecessary summons or fines to our fellow members in the possibility that the government retracts the status of retailing of watches being part of essential services.
(4) Unity in the fight against COVID 19: This COVID 19 needs everyone’s support even in the non-watch business community. Our collective stance together against the COVID 19 might encourage other trade associations in joining the same cause and in seeking dialogue with the government for assistance for all those affected.
Malaysia Watch Trade Association wishes to further state that the recommendation to suspend all retail operations purely based on voluntary basis for our members in considerations of all the information available at the point of writing.
For members who wish to continue the operations of their premises due to necessity, we hope that they can take these points into consideration and prepare in advance:
(1) Protection for Service Staff: We recommend fellow trade members to prioritize the safety of their staff and to minimize the infection possibilities. They are advised to seek with the relevant authorities on daily disinfecting procedures and minimum protective gear for their front line service staff. It’s also advisable to check if there is sufficient insurance coverage for the affected staff in the event of any occurrence of infection. We wish to remind that in the event of any infection caused, the company is responsible for covering the medical bills of the affected staff.
(2) Partial Opening of Outlets: We recommend that retail chain owners consider only opening part of their chain stores instead of all the available stores if possible. This centralized approach still can achieve the operational objective without increasing exposure of infection to both employees and clients. This also allows the retailer to deploy manpower in rotating shift to avoid discontinuing of operations in the event of infection.
(3) Maintain and follow up with Authorities: For those that already obtained the license to operate, we hoped that the members continue to stay updated for any latest update from the authorities which could be the result of the deteriorating COVID 19 situation.
(4) Crisis Plan in Place: It is advised to also brief and update the retail team on the standard operating procedures in the event of an outbreak that includes contact tracing and to put in place a Public relation media plan to cope with possible public backlash if COVID infection does occur during the MCO period. This shall also cover scenarios where death or serious infection to service staff or client during this period.
In the meantime, Malaysia Watch Trade Association has also identified 3 key areas which we shall pursue collectively as an association to cope with this MCO 2.0 which could be extended given the high COVID 19 infection rates. These 3 areas of concerns are:
(1) Manpower Support: We will continue to work with fellow associations in seeking manpower support grant which has helped fellow retailers to safeguard the jobs of our fellow watch colleagues during MCO 1.0
(2) Loan Moratorium: Malaysia Watch Trade Association will work with other trade associations in pushing of restoring the loan moratorium to allow retailers to cope with the immediate cash flow issues.
(3) COVID 19 Temporary Act: Malaysia Watch Trade Association shall follow up and check on the COVID 19 temporary act which examines the leasing contract with malls. This might assist fellow retailers to exit from their prevailing contracts if the situation continues to deteriorate.
Again, this unprecedented crisis called for unprecedented patience from all our members. This is the biggest crisis faced not just by us but the entire world. We seek all the available support and understanding from each of you as we combat this MCO 2.0 collectively as an association.
The President and Committee Members of MWTA