MCO: Bracing for a CNY away from family


Chew (in grey) with her mother, sister-in-law and nieces after their walk at Taiping Lake, Taiping, on the second day of Chinese New Year last year. They anticipate that this year's CNY will be quieter. Photo: Kathy Chew

With the re-implementation of the movement control order on Wednesday, families are anticipating that they may not be able to "balik kampung" for Chinese New Year next month.

"With such a high number of cases, it's unlikely that two weeks is sufficient to curb the problem, so we do anticipate that there might be an extension until after Chinese New Year. But we won't know for sure until closer to the date," says Kuala Lumpur-based engineer Edwin Ling, 29.

For Ling and his wife, Marina Liew, 27, who is an IT executive, the announcement was “no surprise”.

“We kind of expected the MCO to be implemented again – seeing such a drastic spike in cases recently, ” says Ling.

Anticipating MCO 2.0, Ling and his family decided to quickly go back to Ipoh, Perak, to visit his parents last weekend.

“Chances are, we might not get to visit them again for some time, and perhaps not even during Chinese New Year, so it’s kind of like our last kopek (last chance to do something), ” he says.

“We even bought all the special foodstuff, including Yee Sang and gifts to bring back to Ipoh, ” says Liew.

Ling and his family 'balik kampung' last weekend to have a pre-CNY dinner including tossing the Yee Sang with his parents at their home in Ipoh. Photo: FilepicLing and his family 'balik kampung' last weekend to have a pre-CNY dinner including tossing the Yee Sang with his parents at their home in Ipoh. Photo: Filepic

They drove back on Saturday and returned on Sunday.

“The highway was rather jammed but not as bad as during festival times. I believe many other families had the same idea to balik kampung earlier in case of restrictions on interstate movement, ” says Ling.

While they were in Ipoh, they had a special “pre-CNY” meal and even tossed the Yee Sang with Ling's parents.

As they predicted, the re-implementation of the MCO will start tomorrow (Jan 13) morning (12.01am) for two weeks.

"We’re glad that we managed to balik kampung last weekend to have a pre-celebration with my parents, and also for our children to see their grandparents," says Ling.

The couple have twin daughters, aged five, and have been working from home since the MCO in March last year. They are only at their office on a rotational basis twice a week for Ling, and one week every month for Liew. To them, that has become the norm, and they will continue working from home during the second MCO.

Liew's mother, a widow, lives with the couple so she's able to help them look after their kids when they're busy working.

A step in the right direction

Chew, who runs a daycare centre (pictured with one of her students during CNY 2020) always goes back to her hometown every CNY. Photo: Kathy ChewChew, who runs a daycare centre (pictured with one of her students during CNY 2020) always goes back to her hometown every CNY. Photo: Kathy ChewTo Kuala Lumpur-based Kathy Chew, re-introducing the MCO is a step in the right direction because the Covid-19 infection is "spreading at a frightening rate".

“To me, being healthy and safe is the top priority so I’m OK with it’s implementation even though it may be inconvenient,” she says.

Chew who runs her own business – a childcare centre – usually returns to her hometown, Taiping, Perak, every Chinese New Year, to see her parents.

“We all hope there’s no extension of the MCO but it’s a month away so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens,” she says.

Chew, whose two brothers are also KL-based, says that Chinese New Year is always very festive at their parents’ home in Taiping.

“Every year, all the relatives from as far as Johor right up to Penang, will gather for a huge family reunion at my parents’ place. We’ll have an outdoor steamboat dinner in our front garden, and everyone brings something to add to the pot,” she says.

“There’s always lots of food made by my mother who’s a great cook,” she adds.

“It’s a once-in-a-year tradition and this is the only chance we get to see one another. But this year, we don’t know what will happen, so we may have to continue the tradition online with video calls and WhatsApp greetings. It won't be the same as being there in person, but family bonds will always remain strong no matter what,” says Chew who is single.

Chew (second from right) with her family in Taiping, Perak, during last year's CNY. Photo: Kathy ChewChew (second from right) with her family in Taiping, Perak, during last year's CNY. Photo: Kathy Chew“The important thing is that everyone is staying home, safe and healthy,” she says.

The last time she went back to her hometown was in December for the winter solstice festival, where they made tang yuan, a traditional Chinese dessert.

Every year, she also has a “special family project”.

“Last year, we made a special Yee Sang in the shape of a mouse to commemorate the Year of the Rat, and the previous year, we had a special family photo shoot where all of us bought and wore the same T-shirt to take a family portrait together,” she says.

“I guess this year, it might be a virtual project!” she concludes.

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