Going out in the New Norm

Hand saniters and temperature reader were present at every premise for the public’s usage.

Going out in the new normal is definitely a new experience for each of us. Not only in Malaysia, but also worldwide. Before the pandemic, the usage of face masks was only during the mid-year haze season, and even then, it was not compulsory. However, now, without a face mask, one could be denied entry into premises, and get stares from the public.

A time-consuming affair

The new normal entails the implementation of standard operating procedures (SOP) in different sectors. It is to ensure safe and healthy practices throughout the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Among the SOPs that involved the public were those set for business premises such as shopping malls, coffee shops, cafes and the likes.

From my own experiences while the implementation of such SOPs is understandable, it is time-consuming for most. While it doesn’t pose as much inconvenience when entering a stand-alone business premise, it can be quite frustrating when visiting malls.

There are always long lines at mall entrances, and a whole lot more queuing going into the tenants’ premises inside.

Everywhere, store assistants and mall guards suddenly became interested in how high your body temperature is. If it is high, they would inquire and even ask you to stand aside to cool down before another scan, which then adds to another moment of waiting.

At every store, I had to either scan a QR code to fill an online form or to write down my personal details — for any prospect contact tracing, which could take a minute or more, especially with a bad internet connection. Once, I spent two minutes filling up my details before entering, but browsing for items in the shop only took me about 30 seconds. An experience which I found rather amusing.

No testing allowed and maximum customers within a shop were among the SOP for business premise to minimise contact.

I was also required to put on various scented hand sanitiser at every shop I entered — my hands had never felt cleaner for long periods, as I did during my mall visits. Queue, scan for temperature, fill in the forms, sanitise and maintain social distancing were the basic SOP when visiting public premises.

These experiences were an eye-opener as, before Covid-19, practices like these were beyond our imagination. Nonetheless, it will be a good story to tell to the future generations about how we handled the global pandemic.

Georgette Tan

Sharing the same sentiment was 42-year-old freelance writer Georgette Tan. Georgette said that the safety protocol made her think twice about going shopping. The SOPs had also taught her to be more intentional when doing her purchase. “During the movement control order (MCO), I am not spending as much money on frivolous things, and I was forced to look for options closer to home because I can’t go out to Kuching and nearly all delivery services don’t come to Samarahan.”

Other than that, she lamented that some eateries had changed to single-use dishes and utensils to reduce contact. “It doesn’t help the environment as more plastic trash will go to the landfills, especially when most people order takeaways all through the MCO.”

However, she said that good things also comes due to the stringent SOPs. “People wash their hands more often and they were not breathing down my neck when queuing up,” she added.

When public sectors gradually reopened during the recovery movement control order (RMCO), Georgette was relieved that she could leave the house without feeling like a fugitive. “I was also anxious. I know that businesses need to recover and people are restless from staying at home too long, but I’m also not entirely convinced that everyone is taking things seriously enough.”

Diana Maling

In agreement with Georgette, 39-year-old Diana Maling also felt apprehensive at first, given the news of a second wave in other countries, “But now with the SOPs implemented, numbers are controlled and our borders are still closed, so I feel comfortable,” she said.

The consultant shared that having to wear a mask all the time, including in the office was difficult especially when she wears makeup underneath. “It feels stuffy, and it gets worse when you wear glasses! My face was infested by pimples not long after the SOP was implemented.”

Furthermore, she added that she had to go through long queues going into malls. To her, shopping for clothes in the new normal can be challenging because of the no-fitting on rule and no refunds for wrong sizes.

Jessica Lee

Meanwhile, design consultant Jessica Lee shared the same woes as she had to wear a mask daily, “And I need to fill in forms in every shop i visit, even if I only wanted to get a pack of candies.”

To her, being a responsible person is challenging as she would always forget her mask in the car. “And then I have to walk back to my car, sometimes parked further away, just to get my mask!” she laughed recalling the scenario as it happened too many times.

The silver lining during the RMCO according to the 32-year-old is that the majority of businesses had reopened, making it easier to shop now.

During the MCO, sometimes i need to get my supplies from far away as the ones close to home were closed,” she added.

enior Minister of Security Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob recently announced that individual shops in shopping malls are no longer required to take temperature checks of customers who enter their premises.

Visitors now only need to have their temperature taken just once at the entry point, instead of at every shop.

However, shops will still have to take down customers’ names and contact information to enable contact tracing.