Retailers cry foul as HIDE system seen to stigmatise malls

The retailers contended that there is no way of stopping anyone from entering a mall to shop or do their errands including buying essentials and takeaway meals, or as indicated, even meet up. (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

The retailers contended that there is no way of stopping anyone from entering a mall to shop or do their errands including buying essentials and takeaway meals, or as indicated, even meet up. (Photo by Sam Fong/The Edge)

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KUALA LUMPUR (May 18): Retailers and mall operators are crying foul over the government's use of the Hotspot Identification by Dynamic Engagement (HIDE) system to stigmatise malls, despite shopping centres having been quick to rearrange their process of admitting shoppers since the sudden introduction of the controversial system.

The grouping — represented by four associations namely the Malaysia Shopping Malls Association, the Malaysia Retailers Association, the Malaysia Retail Chain Association and the Bumiputra Retailers Organisation — is once again calling on the government to consult industry stakeholders to arrive at practical and effective standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies to avoid unnecessary misinformation and further unwarranted and unfair negative impact for the industry.

It was responding to a news report yesterday quoting Health Minister Datuk Seri Dr Adham Baba as saying that shopping malls were used for "family gatherings" during the recent festive season. He said several shopping malls will be listed under the HIDE system following the findings.

The grouping said it believes the minister may have been misinformed of the real situation and will not penalise malls due to no fault of the malls.  

"It is not conceivable that malls be penalised for having admitted only low-risk family members who have visited together as a family outing. There is no way for the mall to determine if the individuals are part of a family outing group nor is it wrong for a family to go out together as a family outing, especially when the shoppers are complying with the relevant SOPs and complying with social distancing," it said.

In the statement today, the four associations said since the introduction of the HIDE system, malls have immediately rearranged their process of admitting shoppers.

"Instead of allowing shoppers to first scan the MySejahtera QR code, the process has now been reversed with our gate-keepers firstly sighting the risk status of the shoppers from their MySejahtera home screen," they said.

This is to ensure that only low-risk status shoppers are allowed into the mall.

"This new entry procedure is to ensure that those deemed as low risk which include ‘casual contact, with no symptoms’ are deemed safe to enter the mall. It is definitely an extremely onerous procedure involving the deployment (and cost) of more manpower which has already resulted in numerous altercations with the public, but nevertheless, necessary to ensure that malls are safe destinations," they added.

Still, the retailers contended that there is no way of stopping anyone from entering a mall to shop or do their errands including buying essentials and takeaway meals, or as indicated, even meet up.

They said the onus must be on the shoppers to refrain from such gatherings as it is not up to malls to be the police nor do malls have any such rights.

"As such, we feel totally aggrieved by the way HIDE is used to stigmatise the malls especially when the malls have immediately and diligently rearranged the gate-keeping process to ensure that the MySejahtera system accurately records the information and that the data collected when used by the HIDE system is not distorted."

On May 8, the government had published the first list of premises flagged as potential Covid-19 hotspots that were identified through the HIDE system.

HIDE is a system that uses big data and artificial intelligence through contact detections by making predictions of the likelihood of the occurrence of a new Covid-19 cluster.

Most of the premises flagged as Covid-19 hotspots by HIDE are located in Selangor followed by Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Penang, Sarawak, Sabah, Putrajaya, Perak, Kelantan as well as one each in Melaka and Negeri Sembilan.

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Kang Siew Li