BARBERS in Malaysia are keeping their doors shut to practise social distancing amid the Covid-19 outbreak.
Haircuts can be a hair-raising experience with an infectious disease on the loose, and both barbers and their customers are afraid of the close interaction that is pretty much the practice.
And barbers are even more vulnerable because they see several people each day, so Malaysian Indian Hair Dressing Saloon Owners Association (Mindas) president Dr Magendran Vellasamy said association members are supportive of the government's movement control order (MCO).
They are not asking for their business to remain open, due to the high health risk, he said.
"Before March 18 (when the MCO was first imposed), customers at most barbershops throughout the country had already dwindled.
"Customers aware of the disease are scared. Everyone is fearful. Our barbers fear it. We choose not to operate.
"Our business requires close interaction and this would lead to breathing into someone else's hair.
"Even if someone calls a barber to their house, it will not be right. Our barbers going into someone else's house is not wise, as he would not know the situation in that house and would not want to contract the virus (and bring it) back to his home," he said.
Mindas has 750 members and 3,500 registered barbershops nationwide.
"But our members are worried about how they will make a living. I hope the government will help our members through some financial aid in this difficult time," said Magendran.
Meanwhile, entrepreneur Yahya Noh, 39, who started Pedro Ya Mobile Barber a few years ago, said that since the MCO, those in the business have been responsible enough to stop operating.
"It is frightening; we can't see the virus. I would feel awful if a customer got it through our mobile van or I contracted it and took it home to my friends or family," he said.
He said that like most of his friends, he too has bills to settle, but the government's move to defer loan payments for six months has helped mobile businesses such as his.
However, Yahya said he hoped the situation will improve, or he would need to dip into his savings.
"It is a struggle for us barbers who opted to operate from a van as we have loans to service.
"We appreciate the six-month deferment, but we hope the government would consider advising financial institutions to waive the interest charged over the next six months," he added.
On Tuesday (April 7), Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob said that the government will announce new standard operating procedures (SOPs) for different zones to be applied once the MCO has been lifted.
He had added that the government understood that businesses such as car workshops would need to open, and that people might wish to visit hair salons or laundry outlets, but added that an in-depth discussion was needed.
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