OVER 120 massage and reflexology centres owned and operated by the visually impaired community will be able to open their doors to customers once they are able to satisfy the conditions imposed by authorities.
Around 200 visually impaired masseurs and entrepreneurs underwent the Reverse Transmission-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) test to fulfil a key condition before reopening their businesses.
Reflexology and massage therapists who suffered loss of income for over three months were finally given the green-light to resume business after the announcement was made on June 28. These centres employ some 3,000 visually impaired workers.
Some, unfortunately, had to shut down permanently because they were unable to sustain operational costs.
Malaysian Association for the Blind (MAB) chief executive officer George Thomas said the cost of Covid-19 testing was an extra burden for the workers and business owners after months without any income.
“But we were fortunate that BP Healthcare and Doctor2U came forward in offering free testing to all disabled individuals.”
He added that BP Healthcare had earlier tested more than 70 visually impaired massage therapists.
The masseurs will need to comply fully with standard operating procedures (SOP) which includes using gloves and face masks as well as sanitising the place of business every hour and after serving each customer.
Thomas said the extra costs incurred for businesses to comply with the SOP would cause additional strain, but ultimately it was necessary to ensure safety protocols were followed in order to gain the confidence of customers over the long term.
Freelance massage therapist Yong Yoke Ping, who was one of the 200 tested on Friday, said the new requirement to use gloves during body massages would not pose a challenge for workers even though it causes some discomfort to their hands after long periods.
“We are all excited and glad to be back at work again once the shops reopen, as most of us have been staying home and not working for the past three months.
“Knowing that MAB, BP and Doctors2U had organised the testing was also great news because I was nervous to go to the hospital, ” she said.
As a freelancer, Yong had to rely on a RM400 working allowance for the disabled from the government and drawing from her savings as well as Employees Provident Fund account to cover expenses during the movement control order which started on March 18.
CS Blind Massage proprietor Fong Chin Seng said his business lost approximately RM10,000 in the three months forced closure.
Mohd Zamha Abdul Wahab, 36, who is a national blind footballer and massage therapist who runs a blind massage business with his teammates, is another relieved individual.
He said times had been tough, as national players did not get paid any allowance unless they were in centralised training or taking part in a tournament.
“We are all glad we can reopen now.
“We started this business two years ago to try and earn more for our families, and we would have shut down if we were not allowed to operate for yet another month, ” he added.
Meanwhile, Baskaran Kuppan, who runs the Puchong Reflexology Therapy Centre, said he always remained positive that the situation would improve despite the lack of income.
“It was very difficult at first but I was fortunate that my landlord was kind enough not to collect rent from us for the past three months.
“Now we are able to restart and I am looking forward to it even though the first month will be difficult, ” said the sole breadwinner of his family.