KUALA LUMPUR, May 14 — Club owners and their patrons are ready for nightlife to resume in earnest from tomorrow, although there is some confusion among regular partygoers about the related government standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Jeremy Lim, owner of Dragonfly KL, said that he was appreciative to be allowed to resume club operations again, adding that he felt that the Health Ministry (MoH) and National Security Council (NSC) had compromised on regulations after having talks with business owners.
“It could jolly well have been that they (the government) asked customers to do a supervised test at a medical facility, but instead they decided to take our feedback,” said Lim, who is also president of the Restaurant and Bistro Owners Association.
The SOPs, released by the NSC on Thursday, was titled “Protocols for the Operation of Licensed Pubs and Nightclubs” and requires that all patrons take a Rapid Test Kit-Antigen (RTK-AG) Covid-19 test 24 hours before entering any such establishment.
The tests can either be administered at the entertainment premises, or self-administered prior to an evening out under the supervision of a registered medical practitioner — either in-person or virtually.
Patrons are also required to wear face masks, except when drinking, eating or dancing; and must activate the MyTrace feature on their MySejahtera mobile application before entering.
“Of course, in a sense it (the finalised SOPs) can be seen as restrictive. But if you see it from a more positive side, it’s going to be safer for everyone involved.
“So I hope our customers can be a bit forgiving and come back to support us after 790 days of closure,” he told Malay Mail.
Dragonfly KL will be charging RM5 per test — including the test kit — for patrons to take the Covid-19 test at the establishment.
A check online showed that health service provider Qualitas is charging RM15 for a virtually supervised RTK-Ag self-test, where “a copy of the results” will be sent to the customer.
Kelvin Lam, management general manager of Trec Holdings Sdn Bhd — the company overseeing Trec KL, an entertainment centre that hosts dozens of clubs, bars, pubs and similar hangouts — said that owners were confident that customers would be returning to support them.
“We are all ready to reopen and commence business for the entertainment sector to boost the economy and lead to more job opportunities.
“The SOPs given by the government are clear and it all depends on the licence applied by the industry players. We have also studied the SOPs and are aware of the SOPs,” he said.
To note, although the NSC’s SOP list named pubs as one of the establishments now allowed to reopen, Malay Mail observed that many pubs around Klang Valley have been operating for months.
Lim explained that from his conversations directly with MoH officials, his understanding was that the SOPs in question only apply to establishments with an entertainment licence on top of their restaurant and alcohol licence.
He added that most pubs and bars would only have a restaurant and alcohol licence, meaning it was unlikely that they would be asked to adhere to the new SOPs such as testing for Covid-19 before entering.
MoH is yet to respond to requests for clarification sent by Malay Mail regarding the matter.
On the other hand, partygoers themselves seem to be unsure about the SOPs, with all five people Malay Mail spoke to in a quick poll expressing some manner of confusion on what needed to be done for them to party safely again.
Samantha Niel, 23, who is a law student, said she did not understand how premises owners will validate whether customers have conducted Covid-19 self-testing if done under the virtual supervision of a doctor.
“I don’t know what proof they are expecting. MySejahtera doesn’t even show anything. Any other proof can just be made up,” she said.
A junior doctor, who wanted to be known simply as Muthu, similarly said: “A lot of scams can happen, where people can make use of their friends who are junior doctors like me.
“My chop still says ‘siswazah’, which means I’m a junior doctor.
“By right, a senior medical officer is supposed to be present for this kind of thing. But the government didn’t specify. They just said it has to be in the presence of a doctor.
“They (the government) didn’t exactly say how we’re supposed to document and tell them that it’s a real RTK. Unless they want us to bring the test set (showing negative results) to the club itself. But how do they know it’s from that person?”
However, Muthu said the new SOPs were unlikely to deter him from clubbing as much as he used to before the pandemic, which was about once a month.
“As long as I can club,” he said.
Four of the five polled, aged 23 to 28, thought similarly.
Only one, communications manager Kristopher Lee, 28, said that he might curtail his clubbing, as he felt that adhering to the SOPs would be a lengthy process, and “neither do they seem very safe” in terms of ensuring that Covid-19 is under control.
On April 27, Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin announced that nightclubs will be allowed to reopen as the National Security Council’s (NSC) Negative List, which prohibited certain activities and businesses during the Covid-19 pandemic, will be abolished starting May 15.
Khairy announced the matter during a press conference, adding that the relevant agencies at that time, were in the midst of preparing protocols for operations of these soon-to-be reopened premises.
Trade group coalition Industries Unite has appealed to the government to allow pubs and nightclubs to reopen under the National Recovery Plan since October last year.
It estimated that at least 150,000 to 250,000 jobs were at stake as the nightclubs and pubs reach “total annihilation”, which would then place additional unnecessary burdens on the government to support the unemployed.
Most entertainment centres such as karaoke, pubs and nightclubs have been closed since the start of the first movement control order (MCO) in 2020.