KUALA LUMPUR: After close to three months of an interstate travel ban, the Bandar Tasik Selatan integrated terminal was a hive of activity on Wednesday (Jun 10) morning.
People queued at the entrance of the transportation hub for their temperature and details to be taken, before they boarded their respective buses on the first day of Malaysia's recovery movement control order (RMCO).
Among them was school cleaner Kasturi Nadarajan, 45, who was heading to Pahang to visit her in-laws for the first time in over three months.
“I live in Kajang, but my mother-in-law lives in the Cameron Highlands, and we haven’t seen each other since the movement control order (MCO) started. We just kept in contact through calls,” she said.
“Yesterday, we chatted and she said why not come back today since the ban would be lifted, so I quickly bought a ticket. Both she and I are happy to be finally meeting each other, I really miss the family,” said Kasturi.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin instituted the MCO on Mar 18 to stem the COVID-19 pandemic in Malaysia.
People were ordered to stay at home while interstate and international travels were barred to break the infection chain. While this has caused families to be separated, the spread of the coronavirus was effectively controlled.
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On Tuesday, only one local transmission case involving a non-citizen was reported. In total, Malaysia has over 8,300 COVID-19 cases and 117 deaths.
The MCO curbs were earlier eased in May when many economic sectors were allowed to resume operations under the conditional MCO. On Sunday, Mr Muhyiddin announced that Malaysia would enter a “recovery phase” on Wednesday, as part of the country’s exit strategy from the MCO.
Under the RMCO, interstate travel is allowed except for areas placed under enhanced MCO, while the country’s borders remain closed.
Undergraduate Cheong Kai Ming, 20, who was waiting at the Bandar Tasik Selatan terminal for his bus back to Senai, Johor, said like many others, he has not been home for three months.
“Once the prime minister announced that interstate travel was allowed, my friends and I bought our bus tickets online straightaway,” the food science student said.
Cheong, who has his luggage and guitar in tow, said he did the cooking himself in Kuala Lumpur and subsisted on takeaway.
"The main thing I would want to do when I get back home is to have a home-cooked meal,” he said.
HAIR SALONS AND BARBERSHOPS OPEN AGAIN
Businesses that were allowed to open again during the RMCO included barbershops, hair salons and beauty parlours.
Following the finalisation of social distancing and safety guidelines, Alph Studios in the upmarket Bangsar area has marked off every other booth in its premises, reducing its total capacity by half.
Daniel Yeoh, one of the directors, said they were taking things slow.
Besides mandated safety precautions such as one-use disposable capes and personal protective equipment (PPE) for their staff, Yeoh and his three partners had also installed an ultraviolet disinfection box for the equipment and reduced the number of bookings they would receive.
“Today is our first day of the RMCO, so everyone, including me, needs time to adjust but we cannot compromise service quality in the process, so we're taking very few bookings each day until everyone’s fully adjusted,” he told CNA.
Yeoh added that the reopening of the hairdressing industry could not have come in a more timely manner.
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Although government subsidies helped cover the wages of the studio’s 18 employees, Yeoh and his partners had also dug into their savings to make sure their staff were fully paid.
“If the industry wasn’t reopened, I don’t think we would have been able to last much longer. We are also fortunate because the landlord was very understanding, and gave us a massive discount on our rental throughout the MCO and the conditional MCO periods,” Yeoh said.
Charine Ooi, 32, who works as a consultant in the food and beverage industry, was in Alph Studios for a touchup on her dye job.
“The last time I had my hair done was before Chinese New Year.
“It did bug me a little during the MCO period, but now you have the flexibility to go out, making yourself look better will help psychologically,” she said.
For those who want quick and no-fuss haircuts, the neighbourhood barber would serve just fine.
At a local Indian barbershop in Kelana Jaya, three barbers clad in protective gowns and face shields snipped and combed patrons’ locks, while other customers waited for their turn on chairs placed outside the shop, each 1m apart.
“It’s the best feeling of this MCO period. I’ve been waiting for two months and I feel much lighter now,” said final-year university student and freelance videographer Firdaus Omar.