KUALA LUMPUR - Many ethnic Chinese in Malaysia celebrated online as they ushered in the Lunar New Year amid coronavirus movement curbs that limited reunion dinners to 15 people and travel to within a 10km radius.
Some brought their families to shop and eat out at malls as more retailers were allowed to open from Wednesday (Feb 10) while restaurants have been permitted to accept limited dine-ins.
Malaysia is into the fifth of a six-week Movement Control Order, as the government tries to lower the daily infections, which have mostly hovered above 3,000 a day since the middle of last month.
Retired school principal Peggy Lim, 77, had a virtual reunion with family members, as many live in different parts of Malaysia and in other places, including Singapore, Hong Kong, Australia and Britain.
"Not everyone could make it due to the time differences. They popped in and out. Some had to leave quickly," Madam Lim told The Straits Times.
Travel restrictions meant this was the first time home-maker Pauline Wong, 36, had celebrated CNY with her mother since she got married.
Madam Wong hosted a reunion dinner at her home with her husband and children, mother, brother and cousin, who all live within a 10km radius.
"We usually go back to my husband's hometown in Perak. So for my mum, it's like a blessing in disguise for her," she told the ST.
Malls such as Pavilion in the tourist district of Bukit Bintang and giant shopping complex 1 Utama in Selangor state were busier than usual on Friday (Feb 12), with long queues outside some stores due to a cap in the number of shoppers allowed inside.
"I came to do a bit of shopping and take photographs of the CNY decor with my eight-year-old son," a father at Pavilion who declined to be named, told The Straits Times.
Some new health protocols have been enforced at malls, including retailers having to provide disposable gloves for customers.
Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin and his wife tossed yusheng during a virtual open house on Friday (Feb 12) held by Parti Gerakan, a new member of the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition.
The Malaysian government had to backtrack last week after coming under fire for limiting reunion dinners to those living under the same roof and not allowing prayers at temples.
While prayers are now allowed at temples on Feb 19, only 30 people can be present inside at any given time.
The Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom in Selangor state closed its doors and moved operations online so that more people could take part in blessing ceremonies.
Meanwhile, The Chow Kit boutique hotel in Kuala Lumpur is providing an alternative to the restaurant experience by transforming its rooms into private dining spaces so guests can enjoy an evening out without the worries.
Home-maker Aida Aleemah, 42, who was one of the first guests to sample facilities on Feb 11, said: "We love this concept of converting the hotel room into a private dining room. We feel it is safe to enjoy our meals outside again."
Malaysia on Saturday (Feb 13) logged 3,499 Covid-19 cases to bring the cumulative total to 261,805.
There were five fatalities in the same 24-hour period to raise the death toll to 958.