Proud to be ‘essential’ workers despite risk


  • Metro News
  • Monday, 23 Mar 2020

The deserted platform at LRT Setiawangsa in Kuala Lumpur on the first day of MCO.

WHILE many city dwellers have taken refuge in their homes in adhering to the movement control order (MCO), those in essential services have been going about their day as usual.

The services that can continue with their usual operations include transportation, food supply, health, banking and utilities.

StarMetro spoke to several workers in these sectors to find out how they were holding up since the MCO took effect on March 18.

Healthcare sectorWorkers at pharmacies and private clinics said there were less people coming in since the restriction order began.

Pharmacy worker Nur Vasanthy Ramaiah said there were more customers the day before the MCO came into effect as they wanted to stock up on medical supplies.

“Our premises was full with people who wanted to buy face masks, hand sanitisers, wet wipes and antiseptic spray on March 17.

“Since the restriction, there has been much fewer customers as they have to stay indoors, ” she said, adding that she was proud to do her part for the country.

Nur Vasanthy said she was not worried about being asked to continue working.

“If the pharmacies are closed and we stop working, where will people go to get their medical supplies?”

Another pharmacy worker, Nur Azira Azman, said she was worried about her health but was taking measures to protect herself.

“I make sure that I wear the face mask at all times and practise social distancing from customers.

“Although I worry about my health and the risk of being infected, I still have to perform my responsibilities, ” she said.

According to Nur Azira, face masks, wet wipes and antiseptic sprays are the most popular purchases, and the pharmacy has run out of these items.

Pharmacy owner, who only wanted to be known as Wong, said her premises was limiting the purchase of hand sanitisers to only three bottles per customer.

“Each customer can only buy three bottles of the 50ml sanitisers. We have run out of the big bottles since March 17, ” she said, expecting a new batch of sanitisers soon.

Clinic assistant Marduwati Muhammad said the clinic where she worked was taking measures to protect its employees.

“All walk-in patients are required to sanitise their hands immediately upon entering the premises.

“They must also fill in a special form to declare if they exhibit any symptoms related to Covid-19, ” she said.

Marduwati added that if the patients did show symptoms, they would be advised to go to the government clinic to check.

Another clinic assistant in Setiawangsa, Nurul Hariani Md Sapi, said all personnel were required to wear face masks at all times.

“We also sanitise and wash our hands regularly as a precaution, ” she said, adding that the clinic had started to sell hand sanitisers.

Veterinarian Dr Amirah Hussain said the pet clinic in Ampang would remain open during the MCO, as it was considered an essential service.

“We cannot afford to close as people still need and rely on our services, especially customers with really sick animals.

“We have already had a few customers calling to enquire with the hope that we will remain open, ” said Dr Amirah.

However, she said, the clinic was reducing its number of non-essential staff during the restriction order and the necessary steps were being taken to minimise contact with customers.

“We all use personal protective equipment and hand sanitisers are provided, ” she added.

What others sayA worker at the Setiawangsa LRT station, which was deserted, said foot traffic was low even during peak hours.

“I think this is because many people have started to work from home, ” she said.

Auxiliary police Kamal Latif, who monitors foot traffic on the platform, said the closure of public places such as schools and eateries had also resulted in the reduced footfall.

“The coaches have been mostly empty even during peak hours from 7am to 9am, when most people would usually be commuting to work, ” he said.

J&T Express Courier Services supervisor Mohd Ameerul Wahid, 27, said it was just another work day for him.

“Work is work, so for private sectors like us, we have to continue to hold the fort at the Setia Alam branch.

“Although I feel the directive is a little unfair to us as we are also at risk of being exposed to the virus.

“But there are no hard feelings. All the staff are taking precautions by wearing face masks and using hand sanitisers during work, ” he said.

Mohd Ameerul added that the company had received more courier orders as many companies were trying to send out all their items.

“Some of the items cannot be sent as most offices are closed, so we have to redirect the items to our clients’ house, ” he said.

Business Analyst Darren Lee, 30, who works in a bank in Kuala Lumpur, agreed that the MCO compelled essential services to continue their job as it was critical to not raise any more fear or panic among citizens.

“I accept that this is part of my job, although I hope that the company will allow us to work from home as travelling by train to work increases the risk of exposure to the virus.

“But I consider myself lucky to still be able to earn a living.

“I have a brother who works as a freelance emcee, and due to this virus outbreak, he is not able to secure any gigs and it has affected his income, ” he said.

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