PETALING JAYA • Malaysia's decision to expand its movement curbs to nine states from yesterday due to a spike in coronavirus cases caught many by surprise, upending people's plans and preparations for weddings, birthdays and public examinations.
For Ms Joy Ong, the imposition of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) in Penang led to her bringing forward her wedding by two weeks, with the determined bride rearranging her plans within 18 hours.
The 27-year-old design engineer said her wedding registration was to have been on Nov 21, with a lunch after that, followed by a dinner on Nov 29.
"Because of the CMCO, we brought the ceremony forward and tried our luck with our church, photographer, make-up artist and our wedding decor team. I made many phone calls... and I am grateful everything fell into place," she said.
Ms Ong, who was speaking at her wedding at the Penang Christian Centre on Sunday, said she began rescheduling her plans only at 10pm last Saturday.
She initially thought she would have to postpone the wedding, but the last-minute changes worked out. "The only setback was that the restaurant where we had wanted to hold the lunch was booked... So we found another restaurant."
Company executive J.X. Liew, 26, found herself rushing home to Ipoh, Perak, last Saturday night to celebrate her father's birthday.
"I work in Penang and my parents were supposed to visit me this weekend to celebrate my father's birthday. But with the CMCO, I rushed home before interstate travel was banned to spend time with them," said Ms Liew, though she rued the fact that she would be unlikely to celebrate her own birthday in Ipoh this month.
"The first lockdown was overwhelming, but at least we have technology to keep in touch. I do miss them (my parents) but it is still manageable as I have good friends and colleagues here in Penang."
The CMCO also caused the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examination dates to be changed.
The O-level equivalent exam is usually held in November and December. But the Education Ministry had earlier changed the exam dates to Jan 6-Feb 9 next year, due to the pandemic, before further postponing them to Feb 22.
The constant changes have caused anxiety and stress, parent groups said, exacerbated by a year of erratic classes and online lessons.
Students sitting the SPM will resume lessons in schools from Jan 20 to ensure they get sufficient preparation before the exams, Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin said on Sunday.
Mr Mak Chee Kin, chairman of the Melaka Action Group for Parents in Education, said the ministry must be firm on the dates.
"Make firm decisions on the dates and have a comprehensive plan B if the CMCO continues. Stop being firefighters," he said. "Come up with safety measures as well to ensure that the SPM exam is conducted smoothly and fairly."
Parent Action Group for Education Malaysia chairman Noor Azimah Abdul Rahim called the rescheduling "a tragedy".
She added: "Children are dropping out of schools and stress levels are rising with the postponement of the SPM again. How sure are we that it will not be rescheduled again?
"Prolonging the problem isn't going to solve the issue; ensuring the implementation of the strict standard operating procedure will."
Mr Harry Tan, secretary-general of the National Union of the Teaching Profession, said students' safety comes first. "However, we hope the ministry will address issues raised by parents, students and teachers quicker and not take too long to respond."
Students themselves have mixed emotions.
SMK (P) Jalan Ipoh student Harishna Kajentharan, 17, described the postponement as "devastating" as it would affect her college enrolment.
"A lot of my time is going to be wasted but I'm trying to stay optimistic and hope for the best during this Covid-19 pandemic," she said.
A Secondary 5 student who wanted to be known as Han from SMK (P) Methodist Ipoh said she was annoyed that the exams had been postponed yet again. But it must be done considering the spike in Covid-19 cases, she conceded.
"My Chinese New Year celebrations next year will be filled with modules and worksheets, so I feel sad thinking about that," she added.
And a 17-year-old student in Melaka who wanted to be identified only as Wong from SMK Munshi Abdullah said the news was unexpected.
"I hope the date will not be postponed again as it will affect my momentum. I want to move on to the next phase of my life," she said.
THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK