By Azlimi Zakaria
The year 2020 had the world gone viral with COVID-19, both literally and figuratively.
The sneaky culprit COVID-19 virus had found the best way to spread among us humans via our daily (bad) habits, like not keeping our unwashed hands to ourselves or not covering our mouths and noses when we sneezed.
Due to this, within months the outbreak had turned itself into a global pandemic.
Serving in one of the Malaysian Consulates-General in China, we experienced everything first before catchphrases like “new normal” and “social distancing” became the global mantra.
The capital of the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, Nanning is a low-risk city. It was also the city where I lived. Despite that, the ripple effect of the infection was just as dramatic as the other higher-risk cities in China.
For instance, at the beginning of the outbreak here, almost all of the essential items and foodstuff were cleanout at the supermarkets as paranoia was beginning to build up among the general population.
In the meantime, all residential places, premises, and establishments had employed strict health screening for every entry and exit while pharmacies began keeping records of those purchasing any sort of cough medications.
During the height of the infection, Nanning was desolated like a ghost town.
The foggy wintry chill, coupled with the feel of an abandoned city had turned Nanning into the perfect backdrop for a post-apocalyptic zombie movie.
The once busy offices and departments were closed, the normally bustling roads and streets were left quiet, the gregarious malls, premises, and recreational establishments were empty, and the parks stood still with the occasional chirps of wild birds.
Nonetheless like any other truly essential services, the Consulate General of Malaysia had to continue its operation to serve the public, more so during this unprecedented and challenging time.
At least three days a week the office was opened to cater for the needs of Malaysians in distress, while the rest of the week would be from home.
Most of the times, buckets upon buckets of midnight oil were burned to ensure all Malaysians here, especially the stranded tourists found a safe passage home.
Quite a number of these cases revolved around Malaysian tourists who were stranded in far to reach counties within the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region or its neighbouring Guizhou Province.
As each county had its own movement control order, most of these Malaysian tourists were either stuck inside or unable to cross the necessary counties before reaching the airport.
If things were not complicated enough, airlines had begun rescheduling, limiting, and even cancelling their flights due to the spreading infection.
Fortunately, the government agencies such as the local Foreign Affairs Offices and Police Departments in both Guangxi and Guizhou had been more than forthcoming in assisting the Malaysian Consulate General in Nanning to play our role during this unprecedented time.
We could not possibly have served as effective as we did without their assistance as well as the cooperation was given by Malaysians here.
Personally, I can never thank all the parties concerned enough.
It should be mentioned here that as an act of reciprocity and friendship, China had contributed medical assistance to Malaysia following the country’s earlier medical contribution to China when the virus became an outbreak there in the earlier part of 2020.
On top of that, the Malaysian Government has recently announced that everybody in Malaysia, regardless of nationalities and status would be given free vaccination in the effort to create Malaysia as a safe haven against the pandemic.
To date, most of the Malaysian students studying in Guangxi are still in Malaysia since the beginning of last year as their universities have opted for online learning, and flights have yet to return to their original routes and schedules.
Having said the above, the situation in Nanning has gone back to almost normal with nearly everything functioning in full swing, although the mass congregation is still restricted.
On the economic front, despite the crippling effect of the pandemic, Malaysia’s trade with China has remained solid.
In 2020, China continued to be our biggest export destination, while ASEAN had emerged to become China’s biggest trading partner.
The annual event of China-ASEAN Expo (CAEXPO), the biggest international event in Guangxi, was held successfully in 2020 albeit with a new format adapted to the ongoing pandemic.
Through combined efforts of the Malaysian business exhibitors and Malaysian agencies here, Malaysia had once again become one of the biggest and most successful participants in last year’s exposition.
All in all, with the discovery of the vaccine and its mass production as well as the continuous studies on the virus, I am hopeful that the year 2021 would see the world marching in the right direction in the fight against the pandemic.
I suppose that if we really really really have to find a glimmer of positivity amidst this calamity, it could be said that the pandemic has served as a testament of our spirit in humanity and togetherness as citizens of the world facing adversity, regardless of creeds or colours.
About the Author: Azlimi Zakaria is the Malaysian Consul-General in Nanning, China. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org