Grab drivers feeling the pinch from conditional MCO

KOTA KINABALU: Before Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, Seventen Malingka could make as much as RM400 a day driving passengers as a Grab driver.

But when the movement control order (MCO) was imposed early this March and then went into the recovery phase, the 33-year-old saw his earnings drop to between RM100 to RM150 a day, sometimes less.

“Now with the conditional MCO, we can only go online until 8pm (from 6am), so the most income we can get is between RM50 to RM70 daily.

“Sometimes I only get RM30 to RM40 per day, ” he said.

The father of two, who hails from Penampang, said the business was hit pretty hard because they now only rely 100% on local customers.

He said with too many Grab drivers, short hours and so few little passengers making bookings, the competition was stiff.

“Right now my wife, who is working at Gleneagles (private hospital in Kota Kinabalu), is supporting 70% of the household expenses, ” said Seventen who previously works as a contract-based seafarer.

Kota Kinabalu, Penampang and Putatan have been placed under conditional MCO from Oct 7 due to a spike in Covid-19 cases, but the ruling was extended across the state from Oct 13 until Oct 26. Another extension means it will remain in effect until Nov 9 at least.

Another Grab driver, Wong Lin Chik, who has been driving since 2017, said previously he could make 30 trips in a day but now it would be between 10 to 15 trips.

“During the recovery time, the roads filled up and economic activities returned to normal.

“But when conditional MCO happened, the roads began to clear and there were fewer people going out, thus less demand for e-hailing service.

“My income has been reduced to 40%, ” said the 37-year-old, who mentioned he has a side business with a friend, with his driving job being his main source of income.

Wong said he understood the need for the conditional MCO.

“I have to control spending now due to lower finances, and I have to be patient because we do not get many passengers now.

“At the same time, I have to discipline myself to adhere to hygiene practices when working, ” said Wong.

Wong, who lives in Bandar Sierra at the state capital, said his florist wife also could not operate her shop.

He said he hoped the government would extend another round of financial assistance to e-hailing drivers as they did earlier this year when the pandemic hit.

“I received the one-off RM500 aid back in May.

“But as the pandemic continues and Sabah is impacted again, I hope the government will once again give the aid of RM500 or more, as we ride this latest wave, ” he said.