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Sunday, March 29, 2020, 15:40
Driver hopes businesses survive and regain momentum
By Yang Han
Sunday, March 29, 2020, 15:40 By Yang Han

Jason Ng, 42, an e-hailing airport chauffeur services driver and event photographer in Kuala Lumpur, faces an uncertain outlook with the outbreak of COVID-19. He talked to China Daily reporter Kelly Yang in late February.

The city center of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is seen empty March 25, 2020. (VINCENT THIAN / AP)

I am an event photographer and ride-hailing driver in Malaysia. Before the COVID-19 outbreak around a month and a half ago, I would take tourists from China to visit Malaysian holiday destinations like Genting Highlands, Malacca, Penang, Johor, and Langkawi as well as neighbouring countries Singapore and Thailand.

Since the outbreak, my business has been affected because the number of tourists from China and other countries has greatly declined. Our government has said that Malaysia will not restrict Chinese visitors, but many people appear to be scaling back their travel plans anyway due to the current situation. 

I have yet to receive payments from some travel and tour agencies I work with. Everyone is having a hard time due to current market conditions, but we are trying to help each other 

Jason Ng, an e-hailing airport chauffeur services driver

This year has been designated as “Visit Malaysia Year”, but the COVID-19 outbreak has had a negative impact on the tourism industry and, as a result, the country will suffer a major loss of income. Due to these unforeseen circumstances, my financial situation has become unstable.

At the beginning, I didn’t realize how big an impact the virus would have. It has caused innumerable hardships and difficulties. Various events involving large gatherings have been cancelled. The number of hotel room reservations has sharply declined. The tourism, hospitality and transportation industries have been greatly affected.

Usually, just through ride-hailing chauffeur services alone, I could earn at least 500 ringgit (US$119) per day. This, together with the income from the photography business, means I would make about 15,000 to 20,000 ringgit per month.

READ MORE: Singapore acts to calm supply fears as Malaysia bans travel

January was bad but I still made around 10,000 Ringgit. But February was a nightmare – I made just over 2,000 Ringgit due to fewer bookings. I waited days before one job comes in.

Jason Ng. (PHOTO PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY)

I have yet to receive payments from some travel and tour agencies I work with. Everyone is having a hard time due to current market conditions, but we are trying to help each other. Things got worse in February and we believe this is just the beginning. 

The 11-seater multi-purpose vehicle I use to transport passengers was purchased on a hire-purchase basis. As my present income is unable to settle the monthly installments, I have decided to apply for assistance under the repayment moratorium from a local bank, so hopefully this will help me get through.

The photography business is on a project basis, so sometimes I can make enough for an entire month from just one event. I used to take photos at events, seminars and wedding ceremonies, but due to the epidemic, gatherings have been either canceled or postponed. Couples seem to be postponing their weddings in fear that nobody would attend except their parents.

I feel that the circulation of fake news has also caused a certain amount of panic among the public. People are refraining from visiting public places like shopping centers, supermarkets and theaters. They prefer to stay home, fearing that they might be infected by the virus. The government has taken timely measures to curb this malicious act of spreading rumors, with some people prosecuted and fined.

Malaysia’s reported cases have been increasing, but I am not too worried about being infected because I think our country’s medical teams are doing a good job.

I only wear masks sporadically when I need to pick up passengers from the airport and use disinfectants. I think it is not necessary to wear masks all the time unless situation worsens, especially given that Malaysia is a tropical country. Wearing masks in such hot weather can be quite uncomfortable.   

ALSO READ: Malaysia unveils US$58-billion stimulus to cushion virus blow

I can say that people from all walks of life are affected in different ways. I read that employers were warned by the government not to sack staff simply because business is bad. Other measures were suggested, including freezing the intake of new employees, limiting overtime, and reducing work on weekends and public holidays. I cannot imagine how those people will get by without any savings in their accounts. How are they going to make a living?

COVID-19 has done a lot of damage to society and the nation as a whole. How long will this situation last? Nobody knows. The recent change in government also added to the uncertainties facing the country. I pray that all this will come to an end soon and that my businesses will survive and regain momentum.

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