Dinesh Bhandari is counting his lucky stars he still has a job.
The 25-year-old from Panchthar district in Nepal has been working as a security guard in Malaysia for the past five years. Four of those years were spent at a hotel in the heart of Kuala Lumpur.
“But the Covid-19 pandemic and Movement Control Order (MCO) have hit hotels hard. So I’ve been reassigned to an office block in Jalan Sultan Ismail,” said Dinesh.
“I’m thankful I still have a job. I can still send money to my family. Some of my friends at other companies lost their jobs. They have not been able to send money home.
“I hope they will be able to find jobs soon,” he added.
The hotel and tourism industry was badly hit by the pandemic, forcing the closure of some establishments. Hotels also reduced the number of security personnel as their doors were shut throughout the MCO while others reassigned staff from other departments to guard their premises.
Some offices, factories and education hubs also reduced their security staff strength to manage their cash flow, given the uncertainty.
As businesses are slowly opening during the Recovery MCO, Kiran Bahadhur – a manager of a security company in Jalan Ipoh – acknowledged it may take six months more for things to go back to normal.
“We have a client who reduced the number of guards from 19 to three. They got their own staff to work alongside our guards to maintain security,” said Kiran.
“Hotels, international schools and factories were closed and we were equally affected. We continued paying our guards their salaries but it wasn’t easy.
“It may take six months or even a year before our clients will use our services in full. Cash flow is a problem across the board.”
Several initiatives by the government may help speed things up. The extension of the Wage Subsidy Programme, for one, was widely welcomed by the hotel industry. The Tourism, Arts and Culture Ministry is aggressively promoting domestic tourism to help hotel operators and other stakeholders as more Malaysians have been exploring destinations in their own backyards.
Factories have resumed operations while international school students have returned to classrooms in batches since last month.
In May, several security firms in Penang had pleaded for government assistance following the announcement that all foreign workers must undergo Covid-19 screening. Some firms have also claimed to see an increase in cost as guards now will have to be equipped with face masks, gloves and digital thermometers.
Kiran added his company, which has over 100 security personnel, would be happy if it survives the brutal financial beating of this pandemic.
“Profits? Maybe very little this year but that’s not on our minds. As long as salaries are paid, we will be contented. We just have to look forward to better days, hopefully soon,” he said.