Reunions go online amid movement curbs


Many Chinese in Malaysia celebrated online as they ushered in the Chinese New Year amid coronavirus movement curbs that limited reunion dinners to 15 people and travel to within a 10km radius.

Some families visited malls and ate out as more retailers were allowed to open from Wednesday, 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 curb Covid-19 cases,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 of them live in different parts of Malaysia and other places, such as 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 Sunday Times.

Travel curbs meant this was the first time housewife Pauline Wong, 36, had celebrated the Chinese New Year with her mother since she got married. Madam Wong hosted a reunion dinner at 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 said.

Malls like Pavilion in the tourist district of Bukit Bintang and shopping complex 1 Utama in Selangor were busier than usual on Friday, 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 Chinese New Year decor with my eight-year-old son," said a father at Pavilion. He declined to be named.

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 held by Parti Gerakan, a new member of the ruling Perikatan Nasional coalition.

Retired school principal Peggy Lim (left in window outlined in green) having a virtual reunion with family members. Many of them live in different parts of Malaysia and in other places. PHOTO: PEGGY LIM

The government had to backtrack last week after coming under fire for limiting reunion dinners to those living under the same roof and disallowing prayers at temples.

Prayers will now be allowed at temples on Friday, but only 30 people can be present at any given time. The Dong Zen temple in Jenjarom in Selangor moved its operations online so that more could take part in blessing ceremonies.

The Chow Kit boutique hotel in Kuala Lumpur is providing an alternative to the restaurant experience by turning its rooms into private dining spaces so guests can enjoy an evening out without worry.

Housewife Aida Aleemah, 42, who was one of the first guests to sample the facilities on Thursday, 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 yesterday logged 3,499 Covid-19 cases, bringing the total to 261,805. There were five fatalities, raising the death toll to 958.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 14, 2021, with the headline 'Reunions go online amid movement curbs'. Subscribe