In Sabah, confusion as state government allows dine-ins without issuing SOP

KOTA KINABALU, June 29 ― Despite the announcement that dine-ins would be allowed from today, restaurants in Sabah were thrown into a state of confusion by conflicting information on what was permissible or still prohibited.

In the state capital here, some shops opened as early as 7am based on the stipulated business hours, only to hear that health officials were making rounds and shutting down dine-in operations in other areas.

In Lintas, Kepayan and Penampang, some coffee shops managed to open and run a morning breakfast period before they started to hear that law enforcers were clamping down in the Damai area.

By noon, most shops in commercial areas had withdrawn their chairs and tables, and returned to their takeaway business as a precaution.

“I opened up at 8am today we managed to get some morning business, although it was slow. By 9.30am we were hearing news that [Health Department] people were closing down shops in Damai and we were not allowed to open. No SOP, they said.

“So we had to tell our customers to leave as soon as they finished their meals,” said one visibly upset coffee shop owner in Kepayan.

The closure had a domino effect and led to other coffee shop owners in the area also withdrawing their dine-in operations while customers were left feeling confused and resorted to takeaway.

In Penampang, one coffee shop owner was visited by Health Department enforcers and told that dine-in operations were not allowed.

“I told them that we read the news, but they said no. They explained that there was no SOPs out yet, so it was not allowed. But they didn’t fine us, thankfully,” he said.

Yesterday, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor announced that Sabah would allow for dine-ins, along with barber services from today as part of the first phase of the national recovery plan.

However, no standard operating procedures have been issued since the announcement.

Kota Kinabalu MP Chan Foong Hin urged the authorities to immediately clarify the position on dine-ins for coffee shop.

“I’ve received complaints from coffeeshop operators and hawkers near Damai, Lintas, Foh Sang that they have been warned by Health Ministry (KKM) enforcement officers not to set up tables for dine-in purposes or be issued with a compound as the SOP were not yet ready,” he said.

In the absence of a new SOP, he said that it did not mean that the chief minister’s announcement should be ignored as the previous SOP on dine in should automatically apply in the meantime.

“There seems to be some confusion all over,” he said.

Sabah Police Commissioner Datuk Hazani Ghazali said there were no compound notices issued to coffee shops that opened for dine-ins today.

However, he said that they will wait for the National Security Council’s SOPs.

“For now, we will follow the chief minister’s announcement,” he said without wanting to say if dine-ins were allowed or not allowed for coffee shops. – MALAY MAIL

by Julia Chan

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