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My COVID-19 Vaccination Experience @ IDCC Shah Alam

It has been over a year since the COVID-19 pandemic first started raging across the world. In the initial stages, many countries implemented stringent lockdowns, but with economies teetering, it was not a viable, long term solution – which is why people are now putting all of their hopes on vaccines. The rollout in Malaysia has been slow but it’s gradually picking up. We still have a long way to go, but as for my fam and I, I’m thankful that we’ve been able to secure vaccination slots for AstraZeneca.

My dad was the first to get inoculated, and had his first dose last week. I had mine a couple of days ago at IDCC Shah Alam, a convention centre that has been turned into a vaccination facility.

Honestly, it was a little nerve-wracking because I haven’t had any sort of shot for over a decade (I think the last was for HPV, when I was 18 or 19), but I didn’t have to worry – the process was very fast and efficient.

Arriving at IDCC, we were directed by traffic personnel to the 6th floor of the building. Vaccinations are done on the 7th floor, and you can park at floors 4 to 6. If you’re taking Grab, there is a drop off point on the ground floor, where you can take a lift up. Parking is free.

Video (Although I barely had time to film anything because the entire process was so fast) :

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6.45PM: After scanning my temperature and checking in on the MySejahtera app, I followed the signs up the escalator to the 7th floor. There, ushers directed me to the first waiting area outside the hall. We sat for about 10 minutes, and once the area had filled up with people, staff members gave us two forms. There was a slip clipped to the top with a number and QR code.

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These are basically consent forms; Malay in front and English at the back. You only have to fill it in the language you prefer. There are two forms; one of which you will keep later. You can fill it in now if you want, but you can only sign in front of a witness; ie a doctor, when you’re inside the hall. Pens are provided, or you can bring your own.

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7PM: We were told to enter the hall, where there were many counters. I waited for my number to be called on screen, before proceeding to the relevant counter, where a staff asked for my IC and keyed in my details.

7.05PM: I made my way to the next section, where there were more counters, but these were manned by doctors. No numbers called here; simply waited until a table freed up. My doctor was a young lady who proceeded to ask me about my medical history and explain to me the vaccine I would be getting, ie AstraZeneca. After I acknowledged everything, I was told to sign the consent forms. She kept a copy while I held on to the other.

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7:10PM: It was then on to the waiting area for jabs. The jabs are done in sequestered booths for privacy, so you won’t be able to see other people getting their shots. An usher directed me to one of the booths, where my QR code was scanned to update my MySejahtera status to “Vaccinated”. The nurse showed me the syringe and confirmed that I was taking AstraZeneca before administering the shot. It took less than two minutes!

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7.15PM: Waited at another area for my number to be called. A staff gave me my vaccination card, which I will need to bring for my next appointment. Finally, I was told to wait for 15 minutes and report to them immediately if I felt ill or dizzy; after which I was free to go.

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I was pleasantly surprised at how efficient everything was; staff members were helpful and polite, there were clear signs everywhere, and the entire process was smooth. All in all, it took me less than an hour.

Of course, the procedure may differ from centre to centre, so you may have a different experience – but if you’re going to take your shot at IDCC, there’s nothing to worry about. I would suggest bringing a jacket because the air conditioning is super cold.

My second dose is in about 8 weeks time. Hopefully things will go as smoothly then as they did for the first dose!

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Covid-19 and Life Updates: Getting The AstraZeneca Vaccine

Malaysia has come a long way from last year – and I don’t mean that in a good way. From being lauded as a ‘model’ for other Southeast Asian countries for its quick response to curbing the coronavirus pandemic, we now have the highest cases of coronavirus per million people, at 205.1 cases (at the time of this writing) – higher than that of India.

How did it go so wrong?

Well, if you ask me, it’s a combination of many factors: poor governance, weak leadership, a lackadaisical attitude and a lack of discipline among the public, poor enforcement, double standards… the list goes on. Malaysians are also notorious for being super invested and enthusiastic at starting things, but are terrible at sustaining them. Sure, in the beginning, it seemed like we had our shit together. Everyone cooperated, and there was a sense of solidarity that we’d all get through this together. But as time went on, people either got tired of keeping up appearances, or simply did not care anymore. There are some who have no choice but to be out and about, due to economic reasons. But there are also plenty who are contributing to this current wave because of a “it won’t happen to me” attitude. And frankly, as someone with two elderly parents in the vulnerable category, I find this behaviour disgusting, and I cannot fathom how anyone can be this reckless and selfish.

There was a viral post by a local doctor recently on how she had to perform an emergency surgery for a pregnant woman who was diagnosed with COVID, and yet STILL went to visit relatives over the holiday season, KNOWING FULL WELL she was putting everyone’s lives at risk, including that of herself and her unborn baby. It’s time like these that I wonder if there could be a waver of some kind; like if we know you’re going to contract COVID because you’re being a stupid idiot, doctors can refuse to treat your stubborn, selfish ass.

But we can all talk about my lack of faith in the human race until the cows come home; it doesn’t change the fact that we are in a serious situation. I’m not trying to be a doomsayer, but our front liners are exhausted and on the verge of a breakdown, many people have lost their jobs, our hospitals are bursting, and our vaccine rollout is super slow.

Which is why I signed up for the voluntary AstraZeneca vaccine programme recently. And I was very VERY lucky to be among those who managed to grab a slot, because thousands of others did not make the cut and will have to wait for whenever the next one, whichever brand it is, becomes available. Of course, AZ was not my first choice, but with how things are going, I think it’s the ONLY choice for many people to protect themselves and their loved ones.

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To give you a bit of a background, Malaysia is supposed to get a bunch of vaccines from different countries. The three main ones are AstraZeneca (12.8 million doses), Pfizer (32 million) and Sinovac (12 million), and we’ve also placed orders for Sputnik V from Russia, and CanSino Biologics, from China. That sounds plenty for our population of 32 million. The problem, however, is that only a sliver of these orders have arrived in Malaysia, and our government is extremely slow at administering the vaccine to the population (you can read a more detailed report about the reasons why in this article). So it is that while neighbouring Singapore has already vaccinated 25% of their people, and even Indonesia with its large population has done 4%, Malaysia is lagging behind at an abysmal 3%.

In the early days, the government announced that vaccination would be done in stages: frontliners first, followed by seniors and those with comorbidities (since they are most at risk), followed by everyone else. Being a relatively healthy 30-year-old, I fell into the LAST category, which meant that if everything went according to plan, I’d be inoculated sometime at the end of the year, or early 2022. Seniors, like my parents, were supposed to start their vaccination in April.

Malaysia being Malaysia, April came and went, and my parents (and many other seniors) were still waiting for an appointment. The government seemed to be dragging their feet, and the lack of info further added to public frustration. Now I’m not blaming our medical system. I know our front liners are working crazy hard. But I think they are limited by many things (like manpower and availability of vaccines and facilities), and the poor way the programme is coordinated isn’t helping at all.

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The vaccines that arrived earliest were small batches of Pfizer, which were given to our frontliners. Then came the AstraZeneca shots, and many were reluctant to sign up because of the blood clots scare. This was a couple of months ago when cases weren’t that high, so a lot of people adopted a “wait and see first” attitude. The take-up was so bad that the government opened it up for volunteers, even if they weren’t from the Phase 2 (seniors/comorbidities) category. I initially wanted to register for this, but my mom cautioned me strongly (I’m being polite here) because she was worried, despite me explaining that it was all rumour-mongering and that the percentage of blood clots happening is really low. Like 8 per 1 million. To set her mind at ease, I decided not to volunteer. Cases weren’t that high at the time, and I thought as long as the seniors were vaccinated first, then I could always wait, since I didn’t get out much anyway.

But then May came and there was the Raya holiday. Despite being warned that there would be fines and possible jail time for travelling interstate or visiting friends and family, thousands still slipped through the cracks and risked their lives and health to go see their loved ones. I know it’s difficult to be away from family. Heck, I haven’t seen my husband since we had our wedding ceremony in February 2020. But that isn’t license to do whatever the hell you want. Sacrifices are necessary – we are essentially at war with an invisible enemy. The worst thing would be to infect a loved one and watch them die because YOU can’t fucking stay at home. Well, maybe you wouldn’t feel the guilt, because if you did – if you had even a shred of responsibility in your being – you wouldn’t have done it in the first place.

So here we are, at 8,290 cases as of May 28.

Now, seeing that shit has hit the fan, people started to go into panic mode. My mom, who was initially so against getting AstraZeneca, finally asked if I could register for her on the MySejahtera app, when the second phase of the voluntary programme opened for seniors aged 60 and above.

“What made you change your mind?” I asked.

“Well, I called your cousin and he was talking about how your aunt and uncle are getting it. And it seems like the chances of blood clots are low.”

“That’s literally what I’ve been telling you since Day 1, and you didn’t believe me.”

“Yeah, well… the cases weren’t that high before. And our rollout is so slow. Even seniors haven’t been vaccinated yet. Who knows how long we’ll have to wait?”

I would have very much liked to say “I told you so,” but I didn’t want another fight so I just did what she asked. And as long as my parents are getting vaccinated, I guess it doesn’t matter if it took an outsider to convince her lol. “You and Cyrus (my brother) should take it too,” she said. “You’re both in the last category, and we’re not even sure if you’ll get it next year, at the rate this is going,”

From naysayer to advocate! I thought.

Unfortunately, the time for being able to leisurely sign up was over. EVERYONE was thinking the same thing. On Wednesday, when the government opened registration for below 60s, it was pandemonium. If you’ve ever tried buying concert tickets for a popular band online, it was exactly like that.

I knew it was going to happen, and that the website would probably crash due to traffic, so my brother and I had our laptops and our phone at the ready at 12pm. The registration got delayed until 12.15pm. Once the button appeared, we were both clicking furiously on both sides: I had one hand on my mouse and the other hovering over the refresh button on my Samsung. True enough, the website kept crashing. At one point, I managed to get to the registration page – but it wouldn’t allow me to select the state I was in. At another, I got past that stage, but it wouldn’t allow me to set the date, even though the slot showed it was still available. Then, of course, the dreaded “I am not a robot”, and having to pick out the frames with bicycles or highways, only to have it crash and repeat everything all over again.

By sheer luck or force of will, I finally managed to submit my details after 40 minutes, and my brother got his shortly after. Registrations were closed after just over an hour, in which over 1 million slots were snapped up.

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You won’t believe the relief I felt when I saw this screen lol. Like I can finally give my fingers a break.

I was one of the lucky ones. Many of my friends expressed frustration, not only because they didn’t get it, but also because the entire experience with the website was such a shitty one. There were memes about how many laptop mice and phone screens must have been damaged that day.

Surprisingly, there were people who appeared not to have gotten through, but received a notification the next day that their application went through. My notification came almost 48 hours later. The earliest available date when I clicked was on 4 July. So July it is. My parents are getting theirs in late June, and my brother in late July.

Honestly, I just feel like it’s a load off my back. I’m not really worried about myself, because I feel I’m fairly healthy and strong – but I’m worried about catching it and spreading it to my parents, who both have comorbidities. Beyond the physical aspect, I also think getting the vaccine is a good thing for my mom’s mental health – at least she would feel a little safer knowing that we have some form of protection. My mom has always been an excessive worrier, and this pandemic has just exacerbated the condition, to the point that it makes things difficult for everyone else living under the same roof. Not that it’s her fault, of course – that’s just how some moms are, and I know that despite her demeanour, she wants what’s best for us.

Life feels like it has been on hold for the past 1.5 years. Can’t wait for things to resume some semblance of normalcy again – or at least normal enough that it’ll be safe for us to go out again (and for the hubs to travel here!).

It will be a long and hard road, but I’m hopeful the day will come. Until then, all we can do is keep ourselves, and our loved ones, as safe as we can.

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PS: Update – The government has just announced a full lockdown from June 1 to June 14, whereby only essential services will be allowed to operate. This will be similar to the first lockdown we had back in March 2020. Dunno, just feel it’s a bit too little too late seeing as how people have been calling for one for the longest time.. rather than allowing leniency and just letting things drag on until it got to this point – but hey. I’m not a policy maker, nor am I an economist, so what do I know?

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Celebrating Chinese New Year In The Middle Of A Pandemic

Chinese New Year, also called the Lunar New Year, is set to fall on 12 February this year. It marks the beginning of a new year according to the traditional lunar calendar, and heralds the arrival of spring. 

Here in Malaysia, Chinese New Year is a pretty big thing, since people of Chinese descent make up more than 20% of the population (about 6 million people). If this was any other year, CNY decor in malls would have already been up right after Christmas. There’d be cookie displays flooding bakery shelves; Padini/Uniqlo would be packed with shoppers buying new clothes on sale, and we’d all be subjected to the torture of loud, repetitive dong dong chiang music 24 hours a day, 7 days a week across all TV and radio channels. 

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Unfortunately, we are in the middle of a pandemic – and like all the other people who made sacrifices last year for Christmas, Deepavali and Hari Raya, it is now our turn to give up the freedom that we often take for granted: the ability to travel home to see our loved ones.

On 13 January 2021, the Malaysian government implemented a second targeted Movement Control Order (MCO), restricting travel to and from red zone states. Workers in non-essential services are required to work from home, travel is restricted to a 10 kilometre radius to buy groceries and essentials, and eateries are only allowed to run on a take-away/delivery basis. Of course, celebrations of any kind are no longer allowed, as are things like weddings and other events. (Adding to the whole hullabaloo is the national Emergency which was declared by our King because of political in-fighting, but that’s for another entry lol.) 

The last time we had an MCO was back in March 2020, and it lasted for two months. Although the current MCO has only been announced for the next two weeks, many people are foreseeing an extension, at least for a further two weeks. With thousands of cases daily in Malaysia (at the time of this writing, there have been over 100 deaths in the last two weeks), most (sane) people understand that this is necessary to break the infection chain and ensure public health and safety. 

Since no events are allowed and travel is restricted, many of us will have to make do with a quiet celebration at home this year. While we won’t be able to observe certain traditions, I think that technology has allowed us to adapt (and innovate) in ways that would not have been possible 20 or 30 years ago – and we can use that to make CNY 2021 a memorable one. 

Reunion Dinner 

The reunion dinner on the eve of CNY is an integral part of CNY celebrations – some even consider it to be even more important than New Year’s Day.Traditionally, it’s when everyone gathers to feast and wish for a prosperous year ahead, whilst enjoying dishes with auspicious meanings (usually fish, pork, prawn and chicken – since back in the days meat was difficult to come by and would only be eaten on special occasions).

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Fam reunion dinner from 2018

The food for reunion dinners used to be prepared at home by the women folk. More than just preparing a meal, it was a way for people to bond. When my grandparents were still alive, the kitchen on CNY eve was a battlefield, and my grandma commandeered it like a general: slicing, dicing and supervising her helpers (my aunties). I kind of missed that after she passed away. In the last few years, eating out has become a trend, since nobody wants to go through the hassle of cooking and washing up for 20 people. Now that there are once again dine-in restrictions at restaurants, perhaps it’s time we went back to the drawing board and rediscover what it means to cook, and eat, together. 

For those who aren’t able to attend the reunion dinner night, I think it would be a good idea to set up some sort of Skype or Zoom call with family, so that you’d still be able to ‘eat’ together –  sort of like what I did with the hubs for our anniversary last year. It won’t replace being there in person, but in these unprecedented times, we have to make do with what we can – and it will hopefully stave off some of the loneliness that people who live away from home will undoubtedly feel during the festive season. 

Ang Pau Mali

Another tradition synonymous with CNY is the giving of red packets (ang pau) containing money to unmarried members of the family. As a kid, I was always super excited to receive ang paus (RM100 was a lot of money for a kid in the 90s). Funny thing though: at the end of each visit, the money would go to my mom, who’d keep it for ‘investment’…. And I’d never see it again lol. (Just kidding, I love you mom.) 

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Now that I’m married, I’ll no longer be on the receiving end, sadly. Under normal circumstances, it’s understandable not to give an angpau if you’re not visiting a particular relative. Unfortunately for married folk, the emergence of e-wallet apps and e-angpaus means that some of us won’t be able to wriggle out of it with the in absentia excuse: your nephews and nieces will probably say, “Aiya auntie, send it through e-angpau lah!” 

In With The New 

People usually buy new things for CNY (especially clothes), as it signifies a fresh start. Many clothing retailers are not able to open their brick and mortar shops, so more have gone online to provide for their customers. You can also find nice clothes on platforms like Shopee and Lazada for super cheap.

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There are pros and cons to shopping online. While it’s certainly more convenient and safer (no hour-long queue to get into the changing room, no fighting with another auntie for the same shirt you both have your eyes on at the sale rack), it can also be challenging for people with unusual body shapes/sizes, since they can’t see or feel the material/ cutting prior to their purchase. (Like yours truly. I have huge… shoulders. winkwink.) If you’re going to buy stuff online, best do it early to avoid disappointment, in case your item comes late in the mail. 

Chinese New Year foods in Malaysia

*Photo: evelynquek, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Buying gift hampers for associates, or cookies / treats for friends and family is another long standing CNY practice, and again, online shopping makes it convenient to have your items shipped directly to the doorstep of your recipient. As for treats for personal consumption, if you have the time, it might be a good idea to try your hand at baking/making your own. If you’re enterprising, you can even make a larger batch to sell and earn some extra money on the side. 

Cleaning / Decorating the House

People often underestimate the importance of decorating one’s personal space to elevate the mood. I believe it’s crucial; not to show off, but to re-centre yourself and your frame of mind. It’s one of the reasons why I wear office clothes even while working from home, because it kicks my mind into ‘work mode’. Lounging in pyjamas all day is comfy, but it also makes me more inclined to go roll around on the bed every 10 minutes. Similarly, just because no one is visiting for CNY doesn’t mean your house shouldn’t be clean and tidy.  

Unfortunately, technology has not yet evolved to the point where I’m able to kick back with a nice cup of coffee and a book, while my robot assistant does everything for me. So, manual labour it is.

CNY in 2021 will certainly be different, but if you put it into perspective, it’s not all doom and gloom. Traditions are meant to be kept and preserved, but if that isn’t possible due to circumstances beyond our control, then perhaps it’s time to innovate some new traditions. 

That being said, McD’s Prosperity Burger is back on the menu. 

Some things just never change. 

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Mid-October Update

Hey guys!

It’s 12/10 and the gov just announced that we’re having another CMCO (for the benefit of my foreign readers, that’s a Conditional Movement Control Order – kinda like a ‘loose’ quarantine but not a total lockdown) in my area: which means no interstate travel allowed, plus restrictions on the operating hours of some businesses, for two weeks. Schools will be closed, as well as parks and entertainment centres. Only two people from each household are allowed out for essentials, and if you have to work across the border (in my case, Puchong – KL) you’ll need a letter from your employer – similar to how it was back in March/April when the whole nation was under lockdown.

I’m not gonna go into deets (because it’ll become a rant lol) on why we’re having a third wave when we were doing pretty okay. let’s just say politicians are shit and they only care about power – as they always do anywhere else in the world. Funny how we ‘learn’ about history and yet take no lessons from them.

Since this blog is mostly about food and travel experiences, I guess I’ll just have to write about other things again for awhile – that is, if I can find the time. As much as I’d like to post and write more often, there’s a crazy amount of work to do on a daily basis. What with pay cuts and staff layoffs left and right, many people who still have a job are forced to take on additional work loads, myself included. It hasn’t been good for my mental health, but I’m trying to power through because I understand that times are hard and no company is a charity case. I might whine about my problems online because it’s the only outlet I have – but at the end of the day, I guess it’s still about getting things done.

I hope everyone is doing safe and well, wherever you are!

Too bad we don’t have autumn in Malaysia lol

**PS: If you’re not already subscribed, I have a Patreon! You can subscribe here. You can also follow me on other social media channels on FacebookInstagram and Twitter. Your support would mean the world to me! 🙂

Cinemas And Spas Are Open Again! Theme Parks to Follow On July 4

Hey guys!

We’ve officially entered the second half of the year. I don’t know about you, but I think the first half of the year was shite. Bushfires in Australia, COVID, social unrest in the States… I wouldn’t be surprised if an alien invasion is next on the agenda lol.

Malaysia has not gone unscathed. The economy has taken a hit, businesses have closed and people have lost their jobs. The one good thing is that we seem to have controlled the spread of the virus for now. By and large, the government’s measures have proven effective, and although we had over 8,000 confirmed cases, mortality was relatively low (121 deaths).

In the middle of June, the government announced that the country is entering a ‘Recovery’ phase. Since then, almost all sectors have returned to full capacity (but this means the traffic jams are back too, boooo). Non-essential services such as spas and cinemas have also reopened on July 1, and theme parks will resume operations on July 4.

Some of these businesses are also implementing safety measures to minimise the risk of transmission, which I laud. For example, Sunway Lagoon, one of Malaysia’s premiere theme parks, will only be allowing a 50 percent guest capacity for better crowd control. There will also be adequate distancing on rides and regular sanitisation of surfaces.

 

Cinemas are finally open to cater to another favourite Malaysian past time – watching movies.

While it’s great to hear that businesses are back on track (since this means the economy can recover!), I think it’s important to remember that COVID isn’t going away anytime soon, and we must stay vigilant. We certainly don’t want a theme park or cinema cluster. I know people (myself included) tend to have a tendency to return to old habits, but we must all adapt to a new way of life – one that includes things like being aware of social distancing and maintaining high standards of hygiene. At the end of the day, if you are still worried about going out for non-essential services such as shopping / entertainment, there’s always the option of staying home. 🙂

 

Domestic Travel Is Allowed Again in Malaysia

Late last year, Malaysia announced this huge Visit Malaysia 2020 campaign, aimed at drawing international and regional tourists to the country. This had to take a backseat due to the coronavirus pandemic, which decimated the tourism industry. Empty hotel rooms and high costs resulted in the closure of several prominent hotels, including Four Points Sandakan, G Tower Kuala Lumpur, Parkroyal KL and Ramada Plaza Melaka.

While I laud the efforts of the Tourism Ministry, the tagline is just plain stupid. Sorry. lol.

Our Prime Minister recently announced that Malaysia is ready to go into the ‘recovery’ phase, and a lot of rules have been relaxed – chief among them that interstate travel is finally allowed (it was previously banned during the Movement Control Order, which started on March 18). While international travel is still off-limits, domestic tourism is encouraged to help revive the economy.

While domestic travel to revive the economy is a good measure (the number of unemployed has already reached 600,000, and the rate is expected to go up to 5.5 pc – the highest in a decade) I do hope that people realise that this coronavirus thing isn’t going away anytime soon, so they should still practice caution even if they’re on a holiday, because we don’t want another wave of infections. Personally, I’m waiting until I feel safer to do so.

In line with the government’s call to promote domestic tourism, Tourism Malaysia released a promotional video on their Youtube channel, which I think was originally slotted for earlier but they can only do it now after the PM’s announcement. Kudos to the team as well as their creative agency, as I think it is really cool and highlights the amazing things that our country has to offer.

Dubbed ‘Discover Breathtaking Malaysia’, the video has a fun and engaging vibe that is aimed at the younger Insta-travel generation, so it’s quite different from the usual promo vids that we’ve been getting for decades, lol. It also won Silver at the Telly Awards 2020 for the Travel/Tourism category, beating 12,000 other entries. Some have been hating on the vid saying that it doesn’t embody the essence of Malaysia due to the K-pop-esque music, but I think it works for the audience it is intended for, and you can’t be a dinosaur yelling ‘tradition!’ all the time when the world is leaving you behind.

Are you ready to travel again? Which place are you intending to travel to once travel restrictions are lifted? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below! 🙂

Are Shops Actually Observing SOPs? – An Ordinary Malaysian’s Observations

On May 4, after close to two months under a strict movement control order, the Malaysian government started lifting restrictions, allowing for most businesses to resume their operations –provided they follow strict ‘SOPs’ (standard operating procedures). They’ve also called for people to observe social distancing and practice good hygiene.

Some parties (and medical experts) have decried the move as premature, since the number of daily cases are still at the time of this writing in the double digits. With the upcoming Hari Raya celebrations, there is fear of a second wave of infections, which might be worse than the last.

This has not been helped by the indecisive policies and often rushed announcements that are clearly not thought through, as well as conflicting statements from different ministries – which has caused even more confusion among businesses and the public.

For example, our health DG has asked everyone to wear face masks to reduce the probability of transmitting/contracting the disease. On the other hand, our Senior Minister has said that businesses are not allowed to turn customers away if they choose not to wear face masks . Also, interstate travel isn’t allowed to avoid people travelling back to their hometowns during the festive season, BUT up to 20 people are allowed to visit relatives on the first day of Hari Raya (provided they don’t travel between states). Idk about you, but 20 people still sounds like a mass gathering to me – and a comment on FB sums it up best:  “Apparently the virus needs to take a holiday too so they’ll be like ‘oh it’s the first day of Raya, let’s take a break from infecting people'”.

The constant call from the gov is to ‘adhere to SOPs’, but nothing much has been put into place to ensure this is enforced. To put it more accurately, it is IMPOSSIBLE to enforce due to the lack of manpower. People are inherently undisciplined (just look at the United States) and without strict enforcement, you cannot rely on them to police themselves. Already, over 1,000 vehicles tried their luck at travelling interstate to ‘go back to their hometowns’ despite knowing it was a clear violation and were turned back at the border. And these are just the ones the police managed to stop. How many more slipped through the cracks, we’ll never know.

But hey, I’m just an ordinary person going about my daily life – so let’s see how many places are actually adhering to the ‘SOPs’.

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Task: Buy lunch

Venue: Soon Lok, Bandar Puteri Puchong

To avoid going out and to minimise the risk of outside contact, the fam and I have been cooking most of our meals at home – but in the last two weeks we’ve gone out once or twice for takeaway. Went to Soon Lok, which has always been my preferred place for roasties (roast duck, chicken and pork). They’ve expanded some of their offerings to include convenient ready-packed meals, kuih and drinks. The resto is not yet open for dine-in, and there weren’t many customers during my visit.

  • Red strips of tape outside the shop indicated where customers are supposed to queue.
  • Most customers followed the rules and waited for their turn.
  • Staff followed good hygienic practices and wore face masks and gloves.
  • After placing an order, the staff gave me a number placard and I collected the order when the number was called.
  • The display area can be a bit problematic, as some customers move to the front to see what’s on display and ignore the line. When calling out an uncle for not lining up, he said “I’m just looking” but he was clearly too close for comfort.

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Task: Buy vegetables and groceries

Venue: 3 Onions, Bandar Puteri Puchong

3 Onions is a fresh grocer / convenience store that sells vegetables and daily goods. I took the mom out for our weekly grocery run, and she popped in while I waited in the car. While I didn’t go in, I could clearly see from the outside that NO SOPs were followed.

  • ‘Desk’ at front where customers are supposed to leave their names and phone numbers for tracking purposes was completely ignored by everyone who went in because it was hard to see. Even the Mom went in straight. I asked her later if she saw the table and she said she didn’t. Most other shops have an attendant to ensure that you fill in the details, this shop didn’t.
  • No crowd control. Customers waltzed in and out freely.
  • No temperatures were taken.
  • Mom reported that the shop was packed, and there was no social distancing whatsoever.

We were supposed to go to another store to buy groceries, but the line stretched almost the whole block so we went to 3 Onions instead. In retrospect, if you aren’t rushed for time, then go to a shop with better crowd control, even if you have to wait in line.

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Task: Buy bread for breakfast

Venue: Berry’s Cake House, Puchong Batu 14

This is the closest decent bakery near my place, so we usually come here for bread and pastries.

  • Excellent crowd control. Staff is stationed at the entrance to ensure that only five customers are allowed into the shop at any time.
  • Temperature is taken at the front door and the staff ensures you sanitise your hands.
  • Clear demarcation where you’re supposed to line up. Good flow despite the small space.
  • Customers write down their name and phone number at the counter during check out. Although they don’t seem to have the SeLANGKAH QR Code so everything has to be written down manually.

So out of the three places I visited, one adhered strictly to SOPs, one could do with improvement, and one did not follow the SOPs at all.

I understand that it’s going to be difficult for the authorities to investigate all complaints and enforce the rules – which is why it’s imperative for us to be smart consumers and protect ourselves. Here are some things my fam and I adopt that I think can be helpful:

A) Shop on Weekdays

If you’re working from home or don’t have to go to the office every day, try to do your grocery runs on weekdays. Since many companies are now up and running again, people have gone back to doing their marketing on weekends, resulting in massive traffic (and human) congestion. I currently go to work on a rotational basis (2 days in the office, 3 working from home), so this has given me the flexibility to go out grocery shopping on weekdays. But for those who don’t have that option:

B) Shop Online 

With many people opting for delivery services, getting a delivery slot might prove difficult – so self pickup may be an option. Some major supermarkets such as AEON Big offer ‘drive-through’ services whereby you place an order and they’ll have your things ready at a specific time; all you need to do is pick it up.

C) Go to Supermarkets 

Some people prefer going to wet markets because produce is apparently fresher and cheaper – but many wet markets have poor control and poor hygiene (case in point: The PJ Old Town Wet Market and the Selayang Market were both fenced off after they were identify as coronavirus infection hubs). Major supermarkets have better crowd control and also better hygiene, so if you’re really concerned about safety and health then you might have to consider sacrificing ‘freshness and variety’. Personal opinion: I also think that the crowd is less rowdy in supermarkets – have you tried jostling with loud-mouthed aunties trying to snatch up the best shrimp (pre-coronavirus)? Well, these same aunties have NOT adapted to a new normal, lol.

D) If they won’t distance themselves, distance YOURSELF 

People cutting queues is a pet peeve of mine. Unfortunately, we have a lot of uncouth peasants running around who don’t know what queueing up is, and they will attempt to jostle to the front in a bid to get what they want faster than everyone else. Depending on the situation, I will usually tell them (politely first, of course!) queue up, or advise them that even if they’re ‘just looking’, they need to observe social distancing.

BUT I’ve also met people who get really defensive and rude when you tell them nicely, so if you don’t want to cause a scene, then distance yourself and let them rejoice in their hollow victory.

How are social distancing measures being adopted in your area? Are people following SOPs? Let me know in the comments section below. Til then, stay safe !

Day 1 Of A New Normal – Returning to Work Post-MCO in Malaysia

If you wanted to sweat the deets, then we’re technically still under a movement control order until May 12. But I’m calling it Post-MCO because all businesses (except close contact ones like spas and hair salons) have already been allowed to reopen on May 4.

At my workplace, we’re currently doing rotational shifts where we go into the office twice a week on different days. I’ve gotten used to working from home, so it feels a little weird to be driving to work again after so long. Granted, the traffic was pretty smooth, so I guess not all businesses are running yet. Schools definitely aren’t.

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At the lift, signs of the new normal are already in place. The building management also posted guards at the lobby, where they took temperatures, jotted down names and check-in times, and prepped hand sanitisers. Almost everyone I see is wearing a face mask.

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I worked on an article for a bit, then got too distracted because my colleagues were busy cleaning out their desks (we’re moving to a new office soon). So I decided to clean out my own desk. I’ve been putting it off because there’s just too much shit to be sorted, but I finally managed to get it all done. Hooray!

I also found this note from when my company organised a DiSC training to determine our working styles and discuss how best to work with each other. The DiSC test is often used by employers to assess workers and potential employees. Mine is a high C (conscientiousness). People who fall into C types are analytical, systematic, detailed, independent and make decisions based on objective reasoning. We are also afraid of being wrong, which is why I like to have as much detail as possible before embarking on a project. I find it difficult to work with I types (these are the ones that are usually lively and have that ‘lets do it and figure things out later!’ attitude), as well as D types (domineering and forceful). Whatever the case, most workplaces have different types of people – the reason why I’ve lasted so long here is that most of my colleagues are C and S (supportive) types. I had an ex-colleague who was a D, and we did not get along one iota.

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For lunch, I drove to a cafe nearby called Bookmark Coffee PJ. Ever since I came here with my editor, I’ve been a big fan of their smoked duck pandan rice, which is superb and comes in generous portions – and I’ve really missed it after nearly two months in quarantine.

Since the MCO is still technically in place, most eateries that are open cater to delivery and takeaway only. I waited for about 20 minutes for my orders (got the smoked duck pesto for my boss).

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Back at the office. Ah, how much I’ve missed this! Imagine juicy pieces of smoked duck with no trace of gaminess whatsoever. The meat is tender and succulent, while the skin and its layer of fattiness underneath just melts in your mouth. The fragrant pandan rice boasts a light blue tinge from natural blue pea flowers, and it is topped with a fried egg for good measure, garnished with vegetables and thin slices of cucumber. Bellissimo! 

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For a spicy kick, have your meal with some homemade sambal and orange glaze sauce. The sauce is slightly sweet and tart, which goes really well with the duck meat.

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One of my colleagues asked for help taking some photos for product placement on his Instagram (he’s an influencer), so we ended up messing around the lobby at our workplace. It was deserted, so we were definitely observing social distancing lol.


The rest of the day was uneventful. Traffic was a bit busier going home, but travel time was still shorter than usual.

I’m foreseeing things to get much busier next week, what with Hari Raya coming up, but hopefully people will still remember to adhere to social distancing and avoid public gatherings. Until we get a vaccine, we’re not out of the woods.

How is your country dealing with COVID 19? Are measures being relaxed, or are they extending the quarantine?