Eating out in Malaysia is like breathing. It’s the thing Malaysians do, often multiple times a day and visitors adopt very quickly. It doesn’t matter if you are enjoying curry fish head on a rickety bench under a tree, or eating lobster in a fine dining establishment, Covid-19 has changed the rules. Reports from around the world show the effects of lockdowns and relaxations on diners and their haunts, but the situation in Malaysia has varied little since March 2020.
Eating out in Malaysia, Covid rules
One of the easiest and least expensive way of finding good food in Malaysia is to hit the local Mamak shop, Kopitiam (coffeeshop), or hawker stalls. These are usually crowded and noisy and depending on the time of day, great for a quick meal or just ‘hanging out’. But Covid-19 has changed things quite a bit. We’ll use three such establishments to illustrate the process as it stands across the country. Thanks to Chong Kok Kopitiam (iCity Central), Shah Alam, Cheong Foh Kopitiam in Klang and Todak waterfront Seafood Market, Kota Kinabalu.
How it works
After the initial period of Movement Control, where all other than take-away food was closed, the rules have relaxed to allow physically distanced (1 metre apart) operations. This generally means only 2 people per table which must be at least 1m away from the next. This means that most establishments have had to reduce their table numbers by between a third and a half, which further reduces the number of customers. Many popular shops/stalls have had to impose a time limit for patrons, to increase turnover. The only relaxation to these rules has been to allow more people at a table, when infections are low.
Registration is required, even if you are collecting takeaway food. Failure to register may make you liable to a hefty fine, if you are seen by enforcement officers. Please note that you must be wearing a mask before you are allowed to enter. There are two ways to register.
- Using the MySejahtera App.
- There are others, but the Federal Government has required all businesses to make the MySehjatera QR code available at the entrance.
- There must be an attendant on duty to check that you have registered and the name of the establishment shows on the screen.
- Get your temperature checked and spray your hands with sanitiser.
- Accompanying dependents (children, elders or disabled members of your family) must be registered as such in the App on your phone.
- Enter your name and phone number in the list provided.
- Do the same for any accompanying dependents.
- There are penalties (fines) for giving incorrect names or phone numbers.
- In a Hawker centre
- Access will be controlled, usually by tape or other obvious blockage.
- Otherwise, you must still register, either by scanning the code, or manually.
- Some centres may also require separate registration at each stall.
- Social distancing of at least 1 meter must be observed between tables
- The number of diners allowed at a table may vary depending on directives from the authorities.
- Seats and tables may be marked to show where you may sit.
- You must wear your mask unless eating.
- Some restaurants or shops may impose time limits, as they can only fit a reduced number of tables.
Some hawker centres and kopitiams are required to alternate the number of hawkers open, to reduce traffic within the area. In this type of setup, ordering is as normal. Place your order at the stall and pay when it’s delivered. For drinks and other items (eg kaya toast) these are ordered from the staff as usual.
Chong Kok in iCity Central is a branch of the traditional kopitiam in the old part of Klang. They have introduced contactless ordering and payment, easy to use when ordering , and available for eat in or takeaway.