Among worst-hit by pandemic, stall owners and cabbies wait out MCO

Taxi drivers sit at a bus stop, waiting for passengers who may never come as the government’s movement control order keeps most people indoors.

PETALING JAYA: Stall owners and taxi drivers are worried that whatever little “emergency savings” they have will not last the month-long movement control order (MCO) which has effectively wiped out their income.

They are among the worst-hit from the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has so far killed 20 people in Malaysia.

Across the nation, food stalls are not allowed to operate despite the nature of their business being tailored for takeaways – which is allowed under the MCO.

Taxi drivers, meanwhile, although considered part of the “essential services” exempted from the virtual lockdown, have been on most days driving without passengers after millions of people were told to remain indoors.

Lina, who sells nasi lemak in Subang Jaya, has been using her savings since the MCO took effect on March 18.

“This can’t go on for too long,” she told FMT, adding that she has no other side-income plans.

“Nothing, I’m not doing anything. I’ve just been sitting at home and following the government’s orders.

Father-of-five Zulkifli Osman in front of his food stall which has been forced to shut down. He now sells kuih online.

“But I’m still wishing that I would wake up in the morning one day and find that this was all just a bad dream.”

Not so for food stall owner Zulkifli Osman.

The 56-year-old father-of-five now sells kuih online to make ends meet.

He can make about RM150 a day, shared with two of his helpers.

“We have no choice, we’re forced to. We don’t have any other source of income,” he said.

Like many others, Zulkifli’s biggest worry is Covid-19.

“I do worry that I could fall sick or maybe even contract the virus. So I have to take care of my health. That comes before business.

“The kids? They just stay at home playing games, that’s what kids do after all.”

Paniselvam Selvam drives all day in his taxi, mostly without passengers.

Since last week, Paniselvam Suppiah, 62, has been driving around the city in his taxi – most of the time minus the passengers.

“Yesterday I managed to earn RM32, but today I haven’t earned a single sen, and it’s already 5.30pm,” he said.

On a normal day, he earns about RM120, on a good day, RM180.

Paniselvam also uses the MyCar e-hailing app, which is usually constantly beeping with new pick-up alerts – but not now.

“There’s no business at bus stops, there’s no business anywhere.

“I cannot move around too much, using up all my petrol, and still not earning a sen,” he added.

Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is set to announce a comprehensive economic stimulus package tomorrow.

He said it would benefit all including e-hailing drivers, farmers, hawkers and restaurant owners.

“No one will be left behind,” he said in a speech telecast live yesterday.

For Paniselvam, whom even taxi associations are unable to help, he is hoping for the best.

“When Najib (Razak) was prime minister, yes, we received many things. He gave tyres and money for petrol. Let’s see what the new prime minister does.”