Malaysians abroad in limbo due to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the way we live and interact. As we enter our fourth phase of the Movement Control Order, isolation at home with my two kids and parents became a routine.

While I consider myself lucky to have my family in isolation with me, I can’t say the same for the thousands others, particularly those in a foreign country.

Many Malaysians who live abroad or who had travelled overseas earlier this year have been left in limbo with many countries closing their borders. While many have made much effort to return home, some have decided to stay put.

Isaac Jong who is doing his Bar Professional Training Course at City Law School is one of those who decided to remain in London.

“Initially I thought about flying home but it was expensive and the idea of being quarantined put me off,” he told Twentytwo13.

Isaac has been in self-isolation in his apartment.

“I still have online classes and exams next month and being in the same time zone really helps if I need any academic support.”

Isaac said travelling would be high-risk – something he couldn’t put his parents through if he was to fly back to Kuching.

So far, he has been using this time to reconnect with old friends, cook, read and catch up with university work.

Being in a foreign country, there is also the fear of being racially discriminated, given the bouts of racial slurs against Asians following the Covid-19 pandemic. Fortunately, he hasn’t had any such unpleasant experience.

“I didn’t experience outright racism in London, though I have had some teenagers at a convenient store staring and pretending to cough. I just went up to her and coughed louder. You should have seen her horrified look,” he said.

Isaac, who has been in the United Kingdom since September 2016, was working as a part-time chef for about six months before losing his job in March due to Covid-19. He calls his parents once a week.

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Amy Yong, also a Sarawakian, is stuck overseas. She flew to Jakarta on March 10 with a friend (from Yemen who was studying in Kuching) to help process his visa application and was supposed to return to Kuching on March 17, a day before the Movement Control Order kicked in.

Unfortunately, the visa application was not processed in time, and they had to postpone their flight back to March 20.

“A day earlier, however, we were told our flight had been cancelled. On top of that, his visa was still not processed,” she said.

“Initially we were staying at a hotel but had to move to a studio apartment in Cikini when the MCO was extended.”

It has been almost two months being in isolation in a foreign country and she confessed that she misses home terribly.

“I video call my mum every day. Sometimes I cry when I feel overwhelmed and homesick. But then I shake it off, telling myself there are many who are in the same or worse situation than me,” she said.

“There are flights back home but I can’t leave my friend here alone and the thought of having to be quarantined in Kuala Lumpur for 14 days and another 14 days when I arrive in Sarawak really puts me off.

Yong misses home terribly.

“So, I decided to wait it out until at least my friend obtains his visa to allow him to return to Kuching.”

No doubt, this pandemic has changed the way we live. On a personal note, I have learnt to appreciate the little things in life, such as having my family around me in such scary times.

It made me reflect how I had taken so many things for granted such as taking a walk at the park, going to the supermarket or reaching out for a hug with family and friends without thinking twice.

But we have to see the silver lining in every bad situation and believe that this too shall pass. Stay safe everyone.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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