From bad to worse: Malaysians look back at 2021 and hope for ‘no more lockdowns’ in 2022 (VIDEO)

·6-min read
A general view of traffic in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur during the movement control order last year. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif
A general view of traffic in Bukit Bintang, Kuala Lumpur during the movement control order last year. ― Picture by Firdaus Latif

KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 31 ― There is no doubt that 2021 was a tough year for Malaysians against the backdrop of continuous devastating events.

Rising Covid-19 cases and deaths, political turmoil, prolonged lockdowns, devastating floods and economic hardship were the major topics that dominated the minds of Malaysians this year that is finally coming to an end.

Despite the expectations of economic recovery in 2021, the emergence of the Covid-19 Delta and Omicron variants and the rising number of cases changed the scenario and made the year even more challenging than 2020.

To put things into perspective, Malaysia ended 2020 with a total of 113,010 Covid-19 cases and 471 deaths.

But this year saw the numbers skyrocketing to over 2.7 million cases and over 31,000 fatalities.

Just like in many other countries, the raging pandemic not only affected lives but also the livelihood of millions of people.

With that in mind, Malay Mail spoke to several people from different walks of life to find out how this year affected them and what they don’t wish for in 2022.

Knowhere Bangsar director Kamaraj R talks about the challenges of F&B operators throughout the pandemic and lockdowns. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
Knowhere Bangsar director Kamaraj R talks about the challenges of F&B operators throughout the pandemic and lockdowns. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Bitter and sweet for F&B

Knowhere Bangsar director Kamaraj R said the year has been a roller coaster ride for him and the business due to prolonged lockdowns.

However, he said the business has picked up and is feeling more optimistic now.

“It was quite tough to survive just by doing deliveries during months of lockdowns when dine-ins were not allowed.”

Kamaraj said the movement control order (MCO) has done good and bad for him over the past two years.

“It has driven the business more in a delivery direction.

“This year we managed to learn more and evolve the business to cater to the take-away and delivery demand.”

According to Kamaraj, 2020 was a much better year for his business when compared to this year as they experienced a boom in sales after the first MCO was lifted mid last year.

“The prolonged MCO this year has taken a big toll on everyone, especially the food and beverage operators.

“In Bangsar, I have seen many closing their business, but again there are also many opening new businesses.”

Despite being in business for less than four years, Kamaraj said the past two years have been stiff and at this point, he doesn’t know what to expect in 2022.

“I just don’t wish for another MCO.

“The pressure is too high to be able to cope and manage.”

Kamaraj said he has 16 staff and tried hard to keep the team intact despite the financial difficulties over the past two years.

“I just don’t want another MCO to affect the business and push me to make difficult decisions.”

Media and communication student Sarah Hindle says online classes have taken away her campus life over the past two years. ― Picture by Ahmaz Zamzahuri
Media and communication student Sarah Hindle says online classes have taken away her campus life over the past two years. ― Picture by Ahmaz Zamzahuri

Missing student life

Online classes have become a new norm for millions of students across the world, including Malaysians.

Digitalisation of school classes doesn’t seem too pleasing for students.

Media and communication student Sarah Hindle said all her degree classes have been online since 2020, which isn’t a constructive way of learning for her.

“I can’t focus that much because there are many distractions at home.

“The house environment can’t match the campus and it’s hard to study virtually for a long period of time.”

Hindle said she finds 2021 way more challenging than last year, mainly due to the prolonged pandemic and movement restrictions.

“At the beginning of the year, we thought the pandemic had already subsided but then it suddenly got a lot worse.

“I think that was when we started to worry again as the social and financial burden continued.”

Hindle, who has recently recovered from Covid-19, said she hopes there won’t be another surge in the number of cases next year with the emergence of the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

Just like most people, Hindle said she misses going out without a mask, travelling and being free.

UMMC chief nursing officer Hasimah Zainol looks after over 2,000 nurses at the hospital. ― Picture by Hari Anggara
UMMC chief nursing officer Hasimah Zainol looks after over 2,000 nurses at the hospital. ― Picture by Hari Anggara

Burnt out healthcare frontliners

The pandemic has dealt a severe blow to the healthcare system with thousands of its frontliners tirelessly working without a break.

University Malaya Medical Centre chief nursing officer Hasimah Zainol said 2021 was the most difficult year throughout her career as the country faced an increasing number of Covid-19 cases for several months.

“Prior to the vaccination programme, we had many patients brought in with severe symptoms that needed extra care.

“On top of that, we also had to deal with infected nurses within our workforce, which made it even more challenging as we had a shortage of staff.”

Hasimah said even the recent flood affected hundreds of their staff and had to deal with a reduced workforce again.

“It is really difficult to continue the services with a manpower shortage, especially during the pandemic.

“The exhaustion among the nurses, doctors and the frontliners is very severe, but we try to cope with it.”

According to Hasimah, most of her staff had to work the whole year without any break due to the high number of cases in the Klang Valley.

As we head into 2022, Hasimah’s only wish was for the Covid-19 cases to remain low so that the healthcare staff can take a breather and make time to care for non-Covid-19 patients.

“I hope we can focus more on those patients with non-communicable diseases.

“These patients have been affected due to delay in treatment because of the pandemic. So, I hope they can continue with their treatment in 2022.”

University of Wollongong Malaysia KDU lecturer Jehan Adnan says the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on her students’ mental health. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri
University of Wollongong Malaysia KDU lecturer Jehan Adnan says the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on her students’ mental health. ― Picture by Ahmad Zamzahuri

Struggling with students’ diminishing mental health

University of Wollongong Malaysia KDU lecturer Jehan Adnan said the two years of pandemic and MCO has visibly taken a toll on her students’ mental health.

“The year has been very challenging for many of my students as they struggle to keep up with their studies online.

“I received a countless number of messages and emails from my students who just wanted a short break from attending classes mainly due to their state of mind.”

Jehan said she has also noticed that her students' work quality has dropped this year when compared with 2020.

“This is mainly due to online classes as it limits students from having their campus life whereby they can do group assignments and other activities.”

According to Jehan, she had a number of good students who had to defer their semesters and even quit studying due to the financial hardship brought by the pandemic.

“It’s sad to see some students making such drastic decisions to drop out of school just because their parents lost their jobs and can no longer afford to pay their tuition fees.”

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