CO-VIVIDLY LIVING THROUGH A PANDEMIC


Wednesday July 1, 2020


SUGAR QUEEN
by SAMANTHA GOH

It was just over 6 months ago that the COVID-19 pandemic took over the world. Many lives were lost. Everyone was in quarantine and isolation. The future was faced with uncertainties.

For me, I was moving from Malaysia to Australia in December 2019. My husband is Australian and our 6-year-old twins were about to start their education in primary school. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis in Australia, international borders were closed to foreigners in February. Phase 1 was implemented, wherein all schools were closed from the 24th March until further notice.

With schools closed, I was at home with my children everyday. My Mom lived on her own since my Dad passed away last year. We were not able to visit her because that was one of the restrictions imposed. It was a measure by the federal government to ensure that seniors, aged 70-years-old and above would not be infected by anyone. I missed her dearly and could only see her when restrictions eased in late May, a week after Mother’s Day. My husband goes to work because his work is essential and healthcare-related. We understood the risks that he might have going in, but he was very careful by keeping the 1.5-meter social distancing suggested in the office. Children were learning online from home for about 9 weeks. I had to come up with ideas to make learning interesting for them. Lots of arts and crafts projects kept them busy at home. Groceries were ordered online and dropped off contact free outside on the front porch. I chose to order my groceries online because there was a strange situation that started in the local supermarket;. apparently the pandemic created panic in consumers and toilet rolls appeared to be the first on everyone’s shopping list. Scenes of crowds grabbing packs of toilet rolls grew and caused a shortage for the valued product nationwide. I didn’t know whether to laugh or be worried, but when I saw some people fighting with the elderly over toilet paper, that really set me off!

The first weeks were frightening when reports of the number of deaths escalated into thousands in China, Europe, and the USA. Australia closed the international borders early and seemed to be in control, but seeing how the wave hit one continent after another was pretty scary. Restrictions were imposed and Phase 1 was implemented. Public playgrounds were closed. No one was allowed to leave the house unless it was for essential work, doctor appointments, exercise, and groceries.

In order to assure my children that everything would be fine, I spoke to them about the effects of the Coronavirus. As long as they stayed indoors and washed their hands properly, they need not be afraid. I challenged them to clean and tidy the house together so as to keep them busy. The number of times they asked why they couldn’t go to playgrounds was depressing. When they washed their hands, I suggested singing Happy Birthday and they loved it! Luckily we have a backyard for them to exercise and run around in. We even made some TikTok videos to lighten our spirits. When their school started on the 24th of May, they were so excited that they raced past the school gates into their classrooms.

The economy was definitely affected because no one could go to work unless it was considered essential work. Lots of people lost their jobs. The Australian government introduced JobKeeper subsidies for employers to keep their staff. JobSeeker payments to those unemployed increased in order to help those affected by the pandemic. Tourism and the airline industry took the biggest hit. Qantas had to cut 6,000 jobs in order to cope with the continuing shut down in the industry. Small businesses such as eat-in restaurants were also affected. Food delivery businesses like Uber Eats became popular with everyone stranded at home. Supermarkets grew in popularity too, as did the demand for jobs in supermarkets, which created a shift in the job market. There are cases of unemployed airline staff currently working in supermarkets.

I kept in contact with my Malaysian friends online. They were also on lockdown during the MCO; the 2020 Movement Control Order implemented as a preventive measure by the federal government of Malaysia. MCO started from the 18th of March to the 9th of June with a few extensions in between. My friends were mostly diligently working from home to care for their children since schools were closed. However one of my friends is a nurse and her husband’s work is healthrelated, so they had to send their children to her parents. It was tough on them not being able to be with their children during the MCO because her parents lived in another state. The only communication was by video calls, but they knew that their children would be safe with her parents. After June 9th, she was able to spend some quality time with lots of hugs and kisses from her little ones.

Thanks to advanced technology, I was able to Skype or Zoom with my friends. Another friend of mine is a fashion clothing shop owner and could not open her shop for business, so she switched to online sales. Her online business, called eeShopping, grew popular during the MCO. Most businesses have switched to online sales since everyone has been locked down at home.

As the restrictions are now easing phase by phase in Malaysia, Australia, and most parts of the world, life is gradually returning back to normal, or the new normal. Social distancing is still imposed. Children are back in school. I feel very blessed to be around my family now. My heart goes out to all those who might have lost their dear ones to the Coronavirus. Until a cure or vaccine is found, everyone needs to remain vigilant in their daily lives. I am optimistic that the future will be filled with more hope.



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