Facing Covid19 Challenges: PIOs in Malaysia

Selamat Hari Raya
June 1, 2020
GOPIO Entrepreneur Retreat 2020
September 29, 2020

A crisis is a great time to show your statesmanship, commitment, and character.
This is the time to contribute to nation-building.

– Kalyan Krishnamurthy


In their quest for a new leaf, the forefathers of the PIOs have braved against deadly diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue and some rough and tough times like world wars, emergencies and long curfews in the past. The Malaysian PIOs of the 19th and 20th centuries have advanced past all those encounters.

An undated photo of Indian workers in a rubber factory in Malaya.



The health impact of Covid-19 began with the first confirmed cases that were detected in Malaysia involving three travelers from China who arrived via Singapore on 25th January 2020. Malaysia’s first China-made wave of Covid-19 lasted from January till mid-February 2020. The second wave began at home on 27th February 2020 and still goes on. The cluster from the Sri Petaling mosque accounted for 3,369 of all confirmed Covid-19 cases in Malaysia or about 44 per cent and it went up to 5 generations. The infectivity R-O before the MCO was 3.55, meaning one person could infect 3.55 people and it has since reduced to 0.6 now during the CMCO. Fortunately, by mid-May, some states were declared as green zones, recording zero cases for more than 14 days.

Since the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia, more than half a million individuals have been sampled and tested for the virus. That is 16.65 tests per 1,000 population with a positive rate of 1.45%. Malaysia shored up hospital beds and ventilators while Covid-19 transmission reduced through a stringent lock down and targeted testing. As of 2nd May 2020, There were 120 Covid-19 screening hospitals and 5,484 beds allocated at 40 hospitals with 1,090 ventilators. However, the highest point reached was on 5th April with 2,596 active cases. Interestingly, during the early days of the pandemic, PIOs were said to be immune to the disease. Others believed that our usage of spices and herbs are protecting us from the virus. One can agree up to a certain point with this statement, but the myth was soon broken and PIOs too got infected.


The social impact of Covid19 is foremost felt by families within the four walls of their homes. Petty traders, vehicle drivers, contract and odd-job workers lost their income and their families had troubles procuring household essentials. In March and April, people were not allowed to travel more than 10 km from their residence, only the head of the family was allowed to leave home for essentials. Couples working in different states and children studying afar were separated from their families. All outdoor activities were barred and people got arrested, fined and even jailed for MCO and CMCO violations.

Up to this moment, lessons in schools and lectures in tertiary institutions are held online and all educational institutions are likely to remain closed for the rest of 2019. Temples and other places of worship are not allowed to conduct mass religious activities with more than 30 people and all weddings are postponed. Funerals are allowed to be organised and attended by up to 10 family members only. All sporting events are either cancelled or postponed and inter-state travels are strictly controlled. The TAMIL SCHOOLS totaling 525 are temporarily deserted. Thousands of Hindu Temples are conducting prayers within small groups. On the other hand, Indian language programmes like news, movies and other entertainment and informative shows on electrical and electronic media have increased their viewers.


The economic impact of Covid-19 is phenomenal as stocks on Malaysia’s stock exchange of Bursa Malaysia tumbled during the outbreak. Many businesses were ordered to stay closed from 18th March till 5th May 2020. By May, 83.1% of businesses required financial assistance and 1.9% were definite of closure. The small and micro businesses forming 83.8% of all enterprises are the ones affected the most. For those who are employed, 33.5% worked from home, 19% had reduced working hour, 16.5% were given unpaid leave and 3.8% were terminated. Salary payment, rental payment and loss of sales became the 3 main challenges for the employers.

Hotels are closing down in what was initially Visit Malaysia Year 2020 and the service industries of retail, tourism, aviation, travel, hospitality, leisure and entertainment are hit hard by Covid-19. The property, construction, sports and a string of other sectors are severely affected by the pandemic. Malaysia is expected to lose an estimated RM100 billion (USD 23.5 billion) due to Covid-19 by June 2020. ETHNIC INDIAN BUSINESS like jewelry, textile, wedding, skincare and hair salon, entertainment and creative sectors are crippled by Covid-19. However, PIO owned clinics, legal firms, mini-markets, restaurants, manufacturing, multi-modal, IT and agro-based business have somehow survived the onslaught.


The GOPIO Covid-19 Response & Relief initiative was set-up to ease the impact caused by Covid19 and the complications encountered by individuals, families and business.

  • Families
    • Hotlines
    • Provision of Groceries and Meals
    • Provision of Baby/Infant Needs
    • Financial Aid
  • PIO Business Community
    • Guided Group Discussions
    • Webinars Local and International Business Matching
    • Financial Support Facilitation
  • Non-Residential Indians
    • Hotlines and Counselling
    • Temporary Shelter
    • Provision of Meals and Groceries
    • Repatriation

During the 1st phase of the Response and Relief activities between 6th April and 5th May, GOPIO Malaysia has reached out to 2,110 families in 50 towns across 8 states with RM162,000.00 (USD 37,855.00) worth of essentials. This mission was made possible with the support of Donors, Partner NGOs and Volunteers. GOPIO also organised guided group discussions, webinars, local and international business-matching and financial support facilitation for PIO businesses. GOPIO too coordinated the repatriation of NRIs from Kuala Lumpur to several cities in India. The 2nd phase of the response and relief efforts are currently underway.

Having said that, some good things too sprung out of this catastrophe. The air is clearer and cleaner, seas and rivers look untainted, trees and plants grew and animals moved freely. In other words, pollution was at its minimum for the first time in several decades. Gladly, there were lots of family time for everyone. Many men and women improved their cooking skills while trying out new and traditional recipes. People got in touch with their long lost friends and relatives via phone and social media. Many learnt new IT tricks and became PC savvy. Even during these difficult times, people found ways and means to stay connected and to extend helping hand to the needy. Many NGOs and philanthropists swung into action as soon as the lock down was declared.




Report Submitted By: Shashiedharan Chandrasegaran
Date: 14th June 2020