KUALA LUMPUR – At a shopping mall carpark in Selangor, Agus Kurniawan was peddling cookies for some extra money.
The 23-year-old Indonesian, who is a daily wage earner, lost his job as a construction worker on Friday (May 28), following the Malaysian government’s announcement of a stringent two-week lockdown beginning on Tuesday (June 1) which will see most economic activities, including in the construction sector, grind to a halt.
Mr Agus has decided to take up whatever work is available so long as it helps put food on the table.
“I didn’t waste any time, I asked around if anyone could offer me anything because the RM3 (S$0.96) per day I’ve been saving since January is not enough to survive the lockdown. Out of pity, my neighbour offered me a part-time job to pack some parcels for his online business,” he told The Straits Times.
“In return, he will pay me RM5 per hour and I can pack the items in my own room. I feel a little bit at ease knowing that this can help me get through the lockdown,” he said.
Mr Agus is just one of many in the country bracing themselves for hardship as Malaysia goes into its second nationwide lockdown to stem a third wave of Covid-19 infections with record-high cases and deaths last week. The latest tough restrictions resemble those imposed between March and May last year in the early months of the pandemic.
The full movement control order (FMCO), which was announced by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Friday (May 28), will be in force until June 14.
Most economic and social activities have been barred and people will be limited to travelling within a 10km radius of their homes.
Only essential businesses such as food and beverage outlets, banking and e-commerce, are allowed.
Madam Radziah Shahir said she spent the last couple of days moving some stock from her shop to her home to make it easier to run her snack food business.
“This is to ensure that I have direct access to my stock at all times. During the first lockdown, I couldn’t fulfill many orders because of the 10km radius restriction but this time, I’m more prepared. I’ve also found a new location for my shop nearer to home so that I can travel there to get more stock if needed,” the 41-year-old told ST.
Parents are also feeling the heat of having to work from home while taking care of the children.
Technician Nazrin Rosli, 37, said: “I decided to get my children some activity books and subscribed to several interactive mobile applications to help them with their homework. I hope this is enough to keep them company while I attend my daily meetings and such.”
Retiree Nasimah Abdul Hamid, 67, on the other hand, said she decided to invest in a robot vacuum cleaner and a dryer since hiring a daily cleaner was out of the question.
“At this age, I’m no longer fit to do the chores on my own. My husband and I no longer need to sweep or hang the clothes under the sun,” she said.
Local media also reported that Malaysians had gone on a buying frenzy, with lines at supermarkets forming as early as 8am despite assurances of adequate supplies of essential items. Photos of long queues at supermarkets circulated on social media.
But many were also mindful of those struggling to cope with financial hardship, taking to social media to urge those who were affected to contact them for food or groceries.
Nadia Ahmad, 33, who was among those extending a helping hand, told the ST: “I am least affected financially during the MCO as my husband’s salary as well as my own are still the same. No increment this year but at least we have full salaries compared to many others who don’t. We are helping out other Malaysians.”
Other than job losses, the full lockdown has also led to concerns about mental health, prompting Malaysians to remind each other to take care of those around them.
“For this lockdown, I have one piece of advice. Check your friends. Especially those who live alone,” a social media user identified as @radzirazak said on May 28 on microblogging site Twitter.