PETALING JAYA: Shoulder-to-shoulder crowds are now commonly seen at eateries and watering holes in the Klang Valley as people fling caution to the wind with the easing of restrictions under the recovery movement control order (RMCO).

Scenes of people in tight crowds are also normal at shopping malls as the standard operating procedures (SOP) are observed only as far as the registration of personal details and body temperature at the entrance.

“We are not out of the woods yet in the fight against Covid-19 although many sectors have reopened,” said head of the School of Medicine at Taylor’s University and public health expert, Prof Dr Rusli Nordin.

He cautioned the public against complacency.

“People may be less worried about Covid-19 now but the danger of a second wave is there,” he told theSun yesterday.

He said the people must take responsibility of their own hygiene and safety, observe social distancing and abide by all SOP.

“You may infect high risk groups like senior citizens and people with comorbidities such as hypertension and diabetes.”

Meanwhile, Help University dean of the faculty of Behaviourial Sciences, Education and English and counselling psychologist Dr Gerard Louis said some Malaysians do not wear masks or practise social distancing due to a lack of personal experience or encounter with Covid-19.

“There’s a saying that goes: ‘A million deaths is a statistic, but one death is a tragedy’. Although the virus has infected many throughout the world, it means nothing to someone personally, unless someone close to them dies of it.”

He also said there is an optimism bias among some people, in that when they see Covid-19 infections happening, they don’t believe that it would happen to them.

“And if they have no direct exposure to people who have contracted the virus, they will become complacent because old habits die hard.”

He cited the norm of people shaking hands, that seem to have resumed.

“Unless someone becomes aware and careful of how they conduct themselves, most people will lapse into the old ways, and that means they don’t see themselves as a potential carrier of the virus and will continue (with their usual routine).”

He also said there is psychological fatigue in being cooped up for too long and the people just want to enjoy their freedom, even if it puts others at risk.

Meanwhile, retail as well as food and beverage stakeholders are of the opinion that their customers should have self-discipline to follow SOP, rather than let their guard down.

Malaysian F&B Executives Association president Muhammad Hisham Tan Abdullah said many places have frontliners to check the body temperature of customers and also put markings on the tables for social distancing.

“However, it is difficult to implement that when some families come in with five to 10 people and want to sit at the same table,” he said.

However, he said the tables are spaced two to three metres apart, so restaurant operators can still enforce some form of social distancing.

Malaysian Retail Chain Association president Datuk Seri Garry Chua said retailers must manage and control the crowds entering their premises, and remind them it is still not a “free-for-all” kind of scenario.

“We must ensure not to have a second MCO, like the lockdown in Melbourne and (some other countries).”

He also said retailers must cooperate with the government to ensure people follow the SOP, which are strict but good guidelines to assist in controlling the situation.

“Everybody plays a role in making sure the infection is contained. I guess (the carefree attitude) is because we now have some freedom, but we must treasure the freedom and not abuse it,” Chua added.

Read the story on our iPaper: Worrying sight at malls, restaurants as people gather and mingle as if Covid-19 has vanished