Caught Between The COVID ‘Devil’ And The Deep Blue Sea

The news of the COVID-19 pandemic brought the world to its knees. The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, spread across the world with unprecedented speed, no thanks to the modern air travel. This pandemic literally caught everybody between the devil and the deep blue sea. Many countries have started to close their borders, restricting air travel and initiating quarantine procedures. Visitors to any country undergoing the shutdown have to make a choice. Should they rush back to their home country? Or should they stay put and ride out the storm, not knowing when it’ll end?

Most airports and subway stations are eerily silent when the Covid 'devil' strikes
The sign of the times. Airports and subways are on lockdown in most countries, as in this photo of a subway station in Asansor, Turkey.
Photo credit: Queven, Pixabay

Caught Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea, We’ll Take Malaysia Anytime

As the pandemic is ravaging across the globe, borders and airports are starting to close. Many citizens of the world had to decide whether or not to return to their loved ones across the sea. In the meantime, the expatriates in Malaysia are in two minds about going back or staying put.

In this followup series on COVID-19, we feature individuals caught in the warp of the lockdown. The newly discovered SARS-CoV-2 virus gave rise to many many questions, some serious, others trivial. Is this going to end? Will the mask be the new fashion must-have?

Aisyah Aziz

Aisyah Aziz planned to fly back to Malaysia from London on 20 March 2020. A London-based Malaysian entrepreneur, Aisyah was in the midst of launching her inaugural range of skincare products. Her home-grown company was excited to introduce the Temure range of products under the Kesuma Bio Herbs portfolio. And her return to Malaysia was to inaugurate her product launch.

The new normal? Fashion with a mask.
Aisyah Aziz, a fashion design graduate herself, wonders if the face mask is the new fashion must-have in the very near future.
Photo source: Aisyah Aziz

Caught In London, When It All Happened

Unfortunately, the airline cancelled her flight on 17 March. That was the day after the Malaysian Prime Minister announced the movement control order (MCO). She knew that she would have to remain in London with her immediate family for the foreseeable future. Now it’s back to the drawing board for the Malaysian team. It’s time to redraw a new approach.

A visit to the Mall was one of the things that we took for granted, and now we wish we are in the position to be able to do it.
Aisyah shared a photo of herself all dressed up at Westfield Mall, London, recently. Today she can only lament that we all can be dressed up, but there’s nowhere to go.
Photo source: Aisyah Aziz.

The Masks And Face Shields

Holding on tightly to her children in London, Aisyah calls on everyone to fight against this pandemic. Wear a mask, if you have to step out of your home. As a fashion design graduate, she wonders if the mask is going to be the new fashion must-have.

In the midst of the pandemic, her company made a commitment to help the needy. Part of their efforts included the sponsorship of protective face shields made by the B40s and special needs families. They will then donate the face shields to the frontliners. After all, they’re the ones who are risking possible infection treating the infected.

Aisyah’s main concern is the critical situation in the United Kingdom where the COVID-19 death toll has breached 25,000. However, the consolation that brought her relief is to know that Malaysia is doing exceedingly well in flattening the curve. She calls on everyone to be more vigilant.

Dominic O’Sullivan

Dominic O’Sullivan departed Kuala Lumpur for the United Kingdom (UK) on 20 January 2020 to visit his family. And that includes his 91-year-old mother, confined to a residential home. At that time, the COVID-19 pandemic was just starting, and no one knew where it was heading.

Panic Buying And Toilet Paper Hoarders

In England, Dominic stayed at his sister’s house where he could visit his mother several times a week. His sister lives in Spain most of the time. So he has the whole house to himself, spending weekends with his children and grandchildren. Everything is going well, in his opinion.

In the midst of it all, the COVID-19 situation was getting more intense. It has begun to spread across the globe. People began to treat it as a serious matter.

The rumour mill was into full swing with alarmist theories on how the virus is spreading. There were discussions on various ways to prevent infection and food supplies concerns. This led to panic buying, with the most popular item being toilet paper rolls.

“Whoever started the rumour about depleting toilet roll supply must be amused. That was the first shelf to be cleared in most UK supermarkets.”


Caught In-Between, It’s Time To Make A Decision

In every country battling with the COVID-19, the statistics are showing that elderly people are particularly vulnerable to the infection. Sadly, the number of infected cases in the UK began to spiral beginning of March 2020. And then Dominic got wind of a resident in another home near to his mother’s had caught the virus. He had no choice but to stop visiting his mother.

At this juncture, Dominic’s family in England was concerned for him. They feared that he would be stuck in the UK indefinitely, and he is all alone at home. He monitored the news channels as cities and countries started to limit movements of their citizens. Authorities even began to restrict air travel. He learned that Malaysia was starting to restrict entry into the country too. His wife is alone in Malaysia. Not thinking twice, he went ahead to book a ticket to fly back to Malaysia on 20 March.

More Problems At The Airports

It is really concerning that infections are rife in crowded places, such as the airport. As though this wasn’t enough to stress him out, much to Dominic’s chagrin, something else popped up. This time, the airport personnel at Heathrow Airport interrogated him for nearly 30 minutes. The wait for them to arrive at a decision was incredibly daunting. Thankfully, they issued him with a boarding pass and he was well on his way home.

Dominic was literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, while the world fights an unknown enemy.
At London Heathrow Airport, Dominic O’Sullivan could not wait to fly back to Malaysia to be with his wife and the rest of the family members.
Photo Source: Dominic O’Sullivan

Upon arriving in KLIA , the immigration officer examined his passport thoroughly. More so than usual. Fortunately, after a brief reference to a supervisor, he said “Welcome back to Malaysia”. Today, after a two-week self-quarantine, he wonders about the future and what’s in store for the world.

Azrul Abu Hassan

For 37-year-old Azrul Abu Hassan, returning to Malaysia after a nine-year hiatus in Saudi Arabia was the right decision. It was the will of Allah.

Caught In A Total Lockdown, Family Comes First

Azrul had the good foresight to move his family back to Kuala Lumpur earlier this year. After which, back to Saudi Arabia to settle final work arrangements. In the midst of it all, Jeddah instituted a total lockdown on 7 April 2020, where everything practically shut down. Everyone, except for the essential services personnel, had to work from home. People could only go out to get groceries and medical help.

Literally caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, it was time to head home to Malaysia for Azrul Abu Hassan
For Azrul Abu Hassan, sending his family back to Malaysia three months ago was the best decision and now time to head home after Jeddah was locked down.
Photo source: Azrul Abu Hassan

Caught In A Maelstrom, He Went Into Isolation

“Since 16 March 2020, I had been isolating myself. I was down with fever. I went for a COVID-19 screening the next day. As expected, the result was negative,” Azrul recalls.

Upon his return, Azrul had to undergo a 14-day mandatory quarantine in a hotel in Putrajaya. Alas, his family is a mere 41 km away in Shah Alam. He could not make it for the third birthday of his daughter Azzahraa, which is something he is sad about.

Aware that others are going through similar issue, he is confident that “We can all fight this!”

Dania Jonid Alsabbagh

As far as 20-year-old Dania Jonid Alsabbagh from Syria is concerned, staying put in Malaysia was the right decision.

Caught In Malaysia

Like everyone else, she did not expect the situation to worsen. Yet, the idea of leaving Malaysia and returning to her home country never crossed her mind. Much to her family’s disappointment.

To date, Syria has so far recorded only 43 COVID-related cases. But this Professional Communications student from International University of Malaya-Wales (IUMW), is adamant about remaining in Malaysia.

This Is Home For Now

Dania knows that a number of foreigners have already left Malaysia, including one of her classmates. She feels that we are all in this together, as she considers Malaysia her second home. After all, she’s been here for three years already.

As a university student, Dania loves it here, and has adapted to the Malaysian lifestyle. “I am happy here, concentrating on my studies with my friends. I thank the Malaysian government, doctors and all those who are at the frontline risking their lives for us.”

No feeling of being caught between the devil of the deep blue sea for Dania. Malaysia is like her second home
For Syrian-born Dania Jonid Alsabbagh, her deep blue sea is Malaysia, so when caught here during the lockdown, the decision was made for her.
Photo Source: Dania Jonid Alsabbagh

What Does The Future Hold For The World?

Only time will tell. Leaders of the respective countries are grappling with having to make informed and appropriate decisions. Which are the right ones that will allow us to regain normalcy in our lives?

This article is part of Espoletta’s CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) initiatives.


She has more than three decades of experience in the media industry before becoming a communication strategist, Hasnah has since left the corporate world, and turned her interest of cooking into a catering business. Elsewhere, she's also a social activist for autism, and writes on the side too.

7 Replies to “Caught Between The COVID ‘Devil’ And The Deep Blue Sea”

  1. Pingback: Medical Tourism: What? Get My Knee Fixed Whilst On Holiday? - Espoletta

  2. Hi Hasnah.
    That was a good read, thank you. Once the Nursin home locked down I was unable to visit my mum anyway so I was stuck’home alone’.
    I managed to go out to do some shopping yesterday which was my first outing since arriving back in KL on 21 March, apart from the Test Centre visit (-ve Hoorah!). Isee that many paces such as eateries and banks appear not to be managing those queuing for service which is stupidity in the extreme. I would be happier to stay locked own for another two weeks or the end of May.
    Time will tell.
    Looking fwd to your next one. 🙂

    • Hey Dominic, thank you for your kind remarks. So glad that all is well after your quarantine period. I hope your mum and family are doing okay in England. The numbers in UK are kinda scary at the moment. Hope all will be well with the world again. Yes, like you, I would be happy to stay indoors until all is cleared. Take care.

  3. The original plan was to come back for good on the 7th of May 2020. However, I couldn’t take any risk of not being able to fly out so on that day, 9th of April 2020, signed a temporary contract extension to work from Malaysia albeit lower salary with the company. I guess the rezq from the land of Prophets still goes on. I feel blessed to now finally be with my family after more than 2 months away.

    • Hi Azrul. Alhamdullillah. As you said, it was the will of Allah. Am so glad you are back in the loving arms of your family. Be safe, take care.

  4. Very good write-up indeed.. it was a worrying week waiting for news that my husband will be able to fly home safely to me and at the same worried that he will catch the virus while travelling from UK to Malaysia.. but it ended well and I was so relieved to have him back home again 😄

    • Hi Eda, thank you for your comments. I feel you. Must be quite a harrowing experience waiting for news. Hope the quarantine was okay. But I think it is good experience all round. Take care and Selamat Berbuka Puasa.

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