When eating out should be a welcome, not an annoying, worrisome experience

When the government relaxed the rules for fully vaccinated individuals, the one experience many were looking forward to was dining in.

Some eateries remain paranoid, even till today, by not allowing guests into their premises. But those who have opened their doors, with stringent standard operating procedures firmly in place, are capturing the smiles and laughter of those who have missed eating out.

A good friend, Justin, finally gathered enough courage to have a meal outdoors.

After being holed up at home for more than a year, it was like he had forgotten what dining out was all about.

Armed with double face masks and a hand sanitiser, he opted to meet up with a couple of friends at a mamak eatery in Wangsa Melawati.

But the experience was short-lived. He went to the shop, looking forward to feeling liberated. Justin instead, left feeling fearful and annoyed.

“The workers had their face masks halfway down, covering their chins, or left their noses exposed,” Justin messaged me immediately after meeting his friends.

“Those handling the naan, and even those preparing drinks, were not wearing their face masks properly.

“The tables were crammed, there were six people sitting around a small table. They were clearly not from the same household. In fact, there were the four of us, all from different households, and we were all allowed to sit at a small table, rather close to one another.”

He said they eventually decided to fan out and didn’t stay for long.

The dine-in rules have been blurred by the respective restaurant, or cafe operators.

In some places, the management insists there can only be two to a table.

My better half and my just turned five-year-old son were forced to sit at one table while I sat at another – located slightly over a metre apart. I’ve also seen restaurants with “no children allowed” signages.

And there are some outlets that don’t seem to care about the number of people sitting at a table, or walking around in the shop, minus face masks, like it was 2018.

There are eateries that don’t even check if the patron is fully vaccinated. When queried, the standard reply is “Insufficient staff”.

The National Security Council’s regulations are quite clear. Only fully vaccinated individuals, without symptoms, are allowed to dine in, and there must be physical distancing. Of course, common sense must prevail, especially when it comes to families dining in.

It all boils down to self-discipline.

We all need to play our part and be mindful of our actions.

Over 90 per cent of the adult population in Malaysia have obatined their shots. But being fully vaccinated does not mean we can’t still get the coronavirus. The operators need to ensure their workers follow the rules.

And for those who love to put their face masks under their chins, I leave you with a quote by Forbes senior contributor and health expert, Bruce Y. Lee:

“That’s a bit like wearing a condom on your scrotum. It’s not protecting anything, except maybe people from seeing your neck or your goatee.”

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