Thousands of students headed home for the winter holidays in January, followed by those working in China who went back to join their loved ones for Chinese New Year reunion gatherings in Malaysia.When Covid-19 hit China in January, the Chinese government implemented a series of measures to control the spread of the virus, including telling people to work from home.
Malaysians who are still back home decided to adopt the wait-and-see attitude before making any travel plans.
What many did not expect was how fast the virus had spread so much so that the World Health Organisation had no choice but to declare a pandemic.
Malaysia was not spared, forcing the government to carry out the movement control order (MCO) in mid-March, banning its citizens from leaving the country to curb the spread of the virus.
China shut down its border some two weeks later.
Some Malaysians, while happy to be home, are already talking about how much they miss Beijing despite the current situation.
Nur Zakiah Mohamad, 23, said she missed chatting with the dama (elderly women) and daye (elderly men).“I need to practise my Mandarin, so I talk to anyone I could on the streets. These golden-aged people are so friendly and patient with my broken putonghua (language of instruction in the Chinese school system).
“We chatted about anything, they were curious about this tudung woman and Malaysia as well,” said the Melaka lass.
A first-year Chinese Language student at Tsinghua University, Zakiah also missed the online shopping spree while admitting that she spent about 400 yuan (RM240) monthly on e-commerce platforms.
“I brought everything online, from daycare products, clothes to fruits and even bicycle,” she laughed.
Kenix Tan, a master’s student in International Management Public Administration at Tsinghua University, has been back at her Penang hometown since Dec 25.
“I miss cycling in the cool breeze along the beautiful streets full of colourful flowers during spring,” she said, citing the hot weather and lack of cycling facilities such as bicycle lanes prevented her from doing it.Another worry is the books she borrowed from the school library.
“I borrowed more than 30 books for my assignments and revisions. I need to return them by August as promised,” she said.
She is also wondering if there would be a graduation ceremony upon completing her course in August.
“I hope the pandemic will be over by then and life returns to normal,” she said.
Project manager Dr Nyiam Li Yi, who survived on delivered lunch almost daily on weekdays, said although packed food was unhealthy, it was convenient having food delivered to her office.
“I want my favourites – fried egg with jasmine flowers and rose biscuits,” she said.
She added that she also missed mingling around, sharing jokes with colleagues and friends.
Apart from completing her work online, the 33-year-old’s daily task was to check the news portals and websites of airlines.
“I only planned to be on leave for a week and never thought that I would be for so long,” she said.
Dr Nyiam, from Sarawak, left China for a holiday in Thailand with her mother during the Chinese New Year break.
The PhD holder in Chinese traditional medicine also attended to patients at a local hospital during weekends.
“I have been keeping in touch with my patients to check on their health conditions via WeChat,” she said.
Administrative assistant Sze Hui Leng, 31, who is stranded in Kuala Lumpur, also missed the convenience of e-shopping in China.
“Just one click and everything is delivered to your doorstep,” she said.She had difficulty in getting groceries delivered to her house during the initial phase of MCO period.
“I could not find a shop near my place that could send groceries to my place,” she added.
Sze has been eagerly waiting to return to Beijing.
“I was hopeful that the situation will improve in both Malaysia and China, but the recent outbreak at Xinfadi wholesale market dashed my hope of returning,” she said.The Chinese capital saw a second wave of outbreak since June 11, and most cases were reported in the suburb district of Fengtai, where the market is.
Last Thursday, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, Wu Zunyou, said the pandemic had been brought under control.