Reports by TARRENCE TAN, TAN SIN CHOW, RENA LIM, JO TIMBUONG and VENESSA DEVI
KUALA LUMPUR: As the race to vaccinate Malaysians against Covid-19 gathers pace, homeless people worry about being left behind as most do not own smartphones and have no permanent addresses.
Karthi, a 33-year-old former lorry driver, said many of them intended to be vaccinated against Covid-19 but did not know how to register for the immunisation programme.
Rough sleeping renders the homeless not only more vulnerable to Covid-19 infection but also unable to hold on to their belongings, such as mobile phones.
“They will just cut our pants when we are asleep and steal whatever’s inside. We usually wouldn’t realise we had been robbed until we wake up the next morning, ” said Karthi.
Meanwhile, Abu Maslan, a 40-year-old Sarawakian transient who has made Jalan Hang Lekiu his home for over a year with his four-year-old son, echoed Karthi’s worries. “I don’t bother keeping anything in my pocket, ” he said, as he cradled his son.
Like his peers on the streets, Abu Maslan is aware that living in unsanitary conditions on the streets makes them vulnerable to Covid-19 infection and therefore they need to be vaccinated all the more urgently.
Although children under 18 are not on the Covid-19 vaccination list, Abu Maslan hopes his son could be vaccinated.
“I don’t ask for much, but I just want us to be vaccinated. I don’t mind getting Covid-19, but I’m just really worried for my son, ” he added.
Mohamad Fikri, 34, who hails from Kelantan, said it should be mandatory for the homeless community in Kuala Lumpur to be vaccinated.
“It’s really dirty here and I think everyone should be forced to be vaccinated, ” he said before quickly walking away.
At Jalan Hang Lekiu, transients lie on flimsy pieces of cardboards in front of empty shop lots while others hang around public benches that are riddled with graffiti.
There was also a foul urine stench along Jalan Hang Lekiu, as some people treat public roads as their toilets and while others could be seen getting their drug “fix” in the back alleys.
During the first movement control order in March last year, it was reported that over 800 homeless people living in various parts of the city were rounded up and placed in shelters.
Back then, the Kuala Lumpur City Hall set up temporary shelters at 10 community centres and multipurpose halls, in addition to two transit centres – Pusat Transit Gelandangan in Jalan Pahang and Anjung Singgah in Jalan Hang Lekiu – to house the homeless to prevent the community spread of Covid-19.
In GEORGE TOWN, the homeless around Komtar are worried of being left out of the Covid-19 vaccination drive as many do not know how to register for the programme.
One of them, who wanted to be known as Yeoh, 57, said: “Some of us here are older folk with health problems. We hope to get the vaccine too because we do not have a strong immune system or body.
“We have been living on the streets for many years and we do not know how or when we will be able to get the vaccine.
“As most of us have no smartphones, we are unable to check or register using the MySejahtera app, ” he said when met yesterday.
Yeoh has been homeless for over a decade after his parents passed away. He used to live with them near Penang Road.
Another senior citizen, known as Yap, 64, said he too looked forward to receiving the vaccine.
“I hope I can take the vaccine soon so that I can feel safer. We assume that everyone will have their turn soon. But the homeless do not know where we stand. For me, I have no one to help me register and I do not know much about the vaccination plans, ” he added.
In JOHOR BARU, among those receiving food from a community centre was Boo Lieng Kim, 56, who has been homeless for more than a decade.
“We do not know how to register for the vaccine. It will be easier for us if the government could come down to help us, ” he said.
Mamat Yaacob, 73, said that it was difficult for him to travel to the designated vaccine centres to register for the vaccine.
“We want to also receive the vaccine as it is not only for our own safety but those around us. We hope that the government would help out, ” he said.