The COVID-19 has brought the world to a halt as we battle against the outbreak of this pandemic. The virus has also kept most of us confined to our homes. However, some industries have been exempted from this as they remain open to serve the public, being categorised as an essential service by the lawmakers.
What is an essential service?
The term refers to a broad range of services and industries that are deemed to be essential during this pandemic. As a result, these sectors are allowed to remain open and continue their business operations with appropriate safety measures in place. However, it varies between different governments.
The best example is currently seen in Florida, where World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) has been deemed to be an essential service. According to the BBC, the pro-wrestling company welcomed the decision signed by Governor Ron DeSantis exempting “professional sports and media production with a national audience” from a state-wide stay-at-home order. This is despite sporting bans taking place worldwide, with the likes of the Premier League being temporarily suspended.
Malaysia too has a set list of essential services that are allowed to operate during this MCO, that falls under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases (Measures Within the Infection Local Areas) Regulations 2020. Under the regulations, industries like production, refining, storage, supply and distribution of fuel and lubricants, transportation by land, water or air remain operational.
Additionally, exceptions can be made for “any service or work determined by a minister as important or critical to public health or safety”. However, one industry has come under the spotlight following the MCO lockdown – breweries.
Are all essential services essential?
On 24 March, Heineken Malaysia Bhd suspended operations of its brewery in Petaling Jaya. But on 5 April, it obtained approval from the Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Ministry to resume limited operations. The Malaysian government then made a drastic U-turn and revoked its decision to allow Heineken and Carlsberg Brewery Malaysia Bhd to continue their operations during the MCO.
But with breweries closed, what about the other sectors under the food supply category? Do you really need that pint of belgium chocolate ice cream to survive? How about that slice of that red velvet cake, bunch of candy sticks, bag of chips and a can of cola? Food for thought right there.
In a nutshell, we’re currently battling a virus that requires most of us to stay home and practice social distancing. Based on that, there perhaps needs to be a look at what exactly is an essential service to ensure equal guidelines and laws are in place for all industries.