Sabahans await state directive on reopening for business

Customers practice social distancing at a supermarket in Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Workers and business owners are not too keen to break the stay-at-home order as yet as many await the state’s decision to reopen the economic sectors from Monday.

As the state government has previously overridden Putrajaya directives under the movement control order, Sabahans are taking a wait-and-see attitude to avoid confusion.

On Friday, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced that most businesses may reopen next week.

Papar restaurant owner Micheal Johnny, 42, said: “We hope there will be no more confusion like the one involving going out in pairs in cars.”

He said Sabah only decided to adopt the procedure of “going out in pairs” a day after Putrajaya announced it on Wednesday.

Johnny said many of his friends had become confused whether to heed the federal directive.

As business premises are under state control, Johnny said he would have to wait for the state government’s directive to allow him to open up his business.

He also said many are still not too keen to go out and work for fear a new Covid-19 cluster would surface if they begin to go out next week.

A quiet street in a major part of Kota Kinabalu.

However, the situation is different in the public sector, where state government staff are now on standby while federal government officers have to return to work from Monday.

A local government engineer, who only wished to be identified as Dzulkarnean, says their only defence against the virus now would be their face masks, sanitisers and a good hygiene discipline.

Factory owner Ng Beng Kim said he was also not clear as to whether employers would have to foot the bill if workers contract Covid-19 once the new procedures come into force on Monday.

“If so, I might decide to lay off some of the workers. Employers have no idea what is going on with their workers’ lives after work.

“It would be unfair if they contract the virus outside of work but the employers have to foot the bill for their treatment,” says Kim, adding that the cost of treatment could go up to the tens of thousands of ringgit.

A tourism operator, Ben Michaels, said the state’s economy had been badly hit by the MCO.

“Ideally, the chief minister must listen to the recommendations of the state security council, but he can also consult the many business chambers,” he said.

Michaels, who is from Penampang, believes the captains of industry in the state would be able to give valuable insight into situations like this.

He also said the non-essential services should be kept closed until the situation has become safer or until a vaccine to fight Covid-19 becomes available.

The state Cabinet is expected to make a decision tomorrow on the reopening of more sectors to revive the economy.

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