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KUALA LUMPUR: The Covid-19 infection has turned the tourism sector upside down, not just in terms of putting a spanner in people’s travel plans but also leading to flight cancellations the world over leaving travellers stranded with little or no money left in their pockets. While reports of such incidents have been hitting the headlines since the pandemic started, there are also cases of travellers who have chosen to remain in the countries that they are visiting. These travellers choose to stay put for many reasons. Some do not want to travel back to their home country and risk getting infected along the way, while others feel it is safer to remain where they are. Others have no choice because their country of origin is on a lockdown or strict movement control order, which saw most airports closed. There are also those who are forced to stay put simply because they do not have the funds for a return trip home. The New Straits Times spoke to several tourists in the city centre to see how they were coping with the Movement Control Order (MCO), which has been in force since the middle of last month.

A backpacker, who wanted to be known only as Elias, was seen walking around the Bukit Bintang area wearing a face mask. The 29-year-old from Belarus said he came to Malaysia about three weeks ago from Vietnam as part of his world tour. “I was in Vietnam for close to half a year, and I have been travelling around the world for more than three years now. “I quit my job as an aviation engineer in order to see the world,” he said, adding that he decided to visit Malaysia as he was in the region. Elias said when he flew here, reports about Covid-19 were not widespread. However, he said, his finances were running low and he was forced to remain in Malaysia. “To be honest, I don’t have much money left. Thankfully, the hostel I am staying at costs only RM19 a day and the owners have allowed me to do odd jobs like helping them clean up, so I don’t have to continue paying for my accommodation. “This is a great relief, especially on my very thin wallet, which is partly why I have chosen to remain here for the moment.”

Elias said he was able to survive in Vietnam for almost half a year because he taught English to the locals to earn some pocket money.  However, as he was unable to work in Malaysia. He has appealed to his friends back home to send him some money. Elias said several other backpackers were in a similar predicament. Despite his situation, Elias remained upbeat, saying he would cope as best as he could. Abdelif Bechker, 53, from France, said he came to Malaysia early last month for a holiday and to look into the possibility of pursuing a joint venture to run a guesthouse here. He said the MCO did not affect him much and that he was thankful to be in good health. “I have a nice, decent place to stay and sufficient funds to survive even though I can’t really go anywhere right now. “I have been in communication with my family back home in New Caledonia. They have asked me to remain where I am for the time being.” Abdelif said he noticed that when the MCO first came into effect, tourists went about the city centre without taking precautions to protect themselves, but things had changed now. “I hope things will get back to normal soon. “If the MCO is not extended and if everything gets back to normal by the end of the month, I hope to proceed with my plans to fly to Manila.”

Meanwhile, a Mexican national, who wished to be known only as Eva, said she had been in the country for quite some time and would fly back once she was able to. “Actually I had the option to return home before Covid-19 caused all this havoc, but I did not do it as I was enjoying myself too much. “However, now I regret my decision,” said Eva, who was seen happily walking along the streets of Kuala Lumpur without wearing a face mask. Source- NST