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LETTER | Solo dining and cycling should be allowed

LETTER | Dining at eateries and cycling for exercise are banned in states, federal territories, divisions or districts under the full movement control order (MCO), now known as Phase 1 of the National Recovery Plan (NRP), which may or may not be lifted under the conditional MCO or Phase 2 of the NRP.

It made perfect sense to prohibit dine-in as in nearly all cases, the cause of Covid-19 contagions was through respiratory infection, which occurred when victims were in close contact with others such as sharing a dining table, regardless of whether diners were friends or strangers.

The risks were further aggravated when diners removed their masks to talk excitedly before, during and after meals, with occasional bursts of laughter. In a crowd, someone could suddenly sneeze while some people habitually cough to comfort themselves when feeling nervous.

Therefore, dine-ins for two or more persons per table should be banned in both Phase 1 and 2 of the NRP. On the other hand, solo dining limited to one person per table is safe and should be permitted immediately in all coffee shops, cafes and restaurants.

However, permission should be granted with condition that customers must keep wearing their masks until they are served. And they are to finish their drinks or food without delay and leave as soon as possible to make way for other customers.

Under the new normal, public dining places should no longer be used for public forum, which were common in many coffee shops patronised by regulars who could sit there for hours. Cafes with Wi-Fi facilities should no longer be used to surf the internet for work or entertainment.

People must practise physical distancing as Covid-19 will become endemic and here to stay. We must change our lifestyle for our survival and to earn our livelihood. Remember, it is not the strongest or the most intelligent of us that will survive, but those most adaptable to change.

As for cycling, there is a huge difference between cycling solo and cycling in pairs or groups. Those who cycle alone are much more alert and careful. They are always watching traffic and on the lookout for dogs. It is much easier and safer for vehicles to overtake a lone cyclist.

On the other hand, those who cycle in pairs or in groups, whether for exercise or transport, are a danger to themselves and other road users. They tend to go by herd instinct, falsely believing that others will notice and give way to them. But it is not always the case and tragedy strikes.

Some bold cyclists ride like motorcyclists, pedalling through traffic lights without realising they are holding up vehicles behind with drivers anxious to clear before the light turns red. Just like lorries and motorcycles travelling in a convoy, it is also risky to overtake a group of cyclists.

Many people who walked for exercise did so in pairs so that they could chat or exchange gossips. Some of those who jogged could be breathing heavily when they run past others. On the other hand, solo cyclists breathe normally and always keep a safe distance away from others.

Hence, solo cycling ought to be encouraged and there is no need to disallow exercise in open spaces before 7am, as this ruling would force many people to converge at the same time. Some people start and finish before 7am to avoid cars being driven out to school or work.

It is time the authorities address the root cause of Covid-19 infections, which is not practising physical distancing coupled with not wearing masks or worn improperly. These are common in many work areas and easily spotted in public places, such as those with nostrils exposed.

For this disastrous year, the average number of Covid-19 daily cases were 3,289 in January, 3,064 in February, 1,443 in March, 2,107 in April, 5,247 in May, 5,987 in June and 6,786 for the first six days of July, with 7,654 cases on July 6.

Clearly, lockdowns have little effect on the reported number of daily cases and there will be little change until standard operating procedures are fine-tuned. For example, back and forth decisions on dine-in would not have arisen if we had only allowed solo dining.

Enjoying a cuppa or meal in a traditional coffee shop can mean a lot to the rakyat devoid of the simple pleasures of life under the pandemic. It would also give a much-needed boost to the operators, including stalls operating from inside coffee shops, and bring cheers to the locality.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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