Stress, sorrow and self-discipline

Today marks Day 432 of the border closing between Malaysia and Singapore, and its adverse effects are acutely felt, mainly by the business sector in Johor Baru.

The first joint Press Conference 'live' on TV

From the start of the nationwide lockdown under the first Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18, 2020, life as we knew it before the global pandemic, has changed forever.

Daily, we are deluged with so much information from local and international media.

There are also countless jokes and creative memes along with loads of wise words and chunks of news and advice in voice and video recordings, often from reliable sources but some are obviously fake.

Then there were parodies of popular songs, performed to lyrics that reflected the mood in this prevailing pandemic, that amused us and temporarily eased the somber state of reality.

While the global pandemic has limited our meetings, traditional celebrations and gatherings, modern technology has given us creative ways to meet and participate virtually for both happy and sad events.

To break the chain of infection, the advice was for everyone to stay at home and go out only for groceries and medical needs. While grocers and pharmacies remained open, all other sectors were closed in the first MCO.

Staff from the government clinic where my mother visits for her regular check-ups, phoned to postpone her appointments – not once but twice during the first MCO – and I was advised to collect her prescriptions, only when necessary.

All eyes and ears were tuned into the news channels to learn more about this dreadful virus and while some were still protesting against the advice to wear face masks, we observed with deep sadness, the escalating number of deaths in the US.

Scientists have made their studies and explained that this deadly virus is air-borne and also spread by contact so people were advised to mask-up, to wash and sanitize their hands often, and to keep a safe physical distance from each other.

In short, it was best to Stay Home to Stay Safe.

The uncertainties in the early part of the pandemic probably shocked our nation into obedience and as the local community strictly complied with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), the daily infections here were successfully reduced.

At first, we naively thought that the lockdown period was just for two weeks.

Then the periods were extended to a further two weeks until it steadily stretched into months and months, with various changes in the Conditions and suddenly, it was already the end of the year 2020.

When travel was limited to within a 10km radius, I planned my grocery shopping to the most convenient destinations and always went in when its doors were just opened, to avoid other shoppers.

It was both stressful and scary to go out even for a short trip because the virus was an unseen enemy and with updated reports of asymptomatic people, no-one knows who may be the virus carriers. And I could not risk carrying it home to my family.

For the second MCO implemented in January 2021, the commercial sector was reopened and the public were able to go about – wearing face masks – and required to comply with all the SOPs.

However, many were wearing masks improperly, either below the nose or under the chin.

With the enforcement of MCO 2.0, daily infections gradually reduced in February but less than two months after the restrictions were relaxed, the numbers surged again.

Daily infections just increased as people were careless about practicing the SOPs like wearing face masks properly and maintaining physical distances.

Every day we received grim updates on the new infections with the breakdown of numbers recorded from each state, total number of recoveries and deaths in the past 24 hours.

While skeptics may say that the numbers have been manipulated or exaggerated, we have to face the fact that there are new infections and many who were infected, have died from complications arising from underlying diseases.

At one stage, the local media frequently featured advertisements that illustrated how close physical contact may cause the spread of infections. This aimed to send the message to the public that it only took a brief contact to spread the virus which may be deadly to the elderly, children and those with underlying illnesses.

They also featured local celebrities and sports personalities in public service ads to send the message to Stay Home to Stay Safe. But all these ads gradually tapered off.

After more than a year battling this unseen enemy, people were tired and getting complacent and careless about protecting themselves and their communities.

Many no longer bothered about Staying Home to Stay Safe and suddenly the malls were filled with people, many thronging the corridors in multi-generational groups.

People were clearly lingering and no longer heading to the grocers or pharmacies and quickly leaving for home.

Working-From-Home was no longer appealing because working people could not balance their work and me-time at home and longed to be back at work to enjoy the routine, structure and office camaraderie they so missed.

Life went on as usual for the general public, mingling in places like malls and night markets.


And when Ramadan rolled around, the crowds not only flocked to the bazaars but many found their way back to their hometowns through rat-routes while inter-state and inter-district travel were still prohibited.

Meanwhile, we read news reports on viral mutations where the variant was easily transmitted and infections could cause either more or less severe symptoms in patients.

The phrase, super-spreader was used to describe how quickly this virus could be spread among people who came into contact with infected people in gatherings.

These variants were so named because they were initially detected in countries like the UK, South Africa, Brazil and India. According to the World Health Organisation:

All viruses including the virus that causes Covid-19 evolve over time. When a virus replicates itself or makes a copy of itself, it sometimes changes a little bit, which is normal for a virus. These changes are called mutations.

A virus with one or more new mutations is referred to as a variant of the original virus. When a virus is widely circulating in a population and causing many infections, the likelihood of the virus mutating increases.

The more opportunities a virus has to spread, the more it replicates – and the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.”

Meanwhile we watched in horror as international news reported shocking numbers of daily infections and deaths in India, and how they were struggling to cope with the shortage of oxygen supplies.

We saw scenes of long queues of people holding oxygen cylinders, waiting for their turn to get their supply refilled. Then the horrific news that many patients died just because the hospital had run out of oxygen.

As the number of infections in our country surged higher and healthcare services were being stretched, MCO 3.0 kicked in from May 12, to stay in effect till June 7.

It was sobering news when Health Director-General, Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, announced that at least three variants have been identified here.

To illustrate how a virus could be easily spread, he cited an example of a person who worked in Johor and returned to East Malaysia to attend a funeral, and inadvertently spread the virus which caused a cluster that resulted in many deaths.


As daily infections and deaths were recording new highs, I received a meme on WhatsApp with a simple message that made good sense. Quote: “The virus doesn’t move, people move it. We stop moving, the virus stops moving…

The reason was ever so clear why restrictions in movement included no inter-state and inter-district travel. By this time, we should have learned from the experiences happening in the world, in our country and in our own communities.

It reminded me to discipline myself to limit my movements outside to essential reasons like buying groceries or going for hospital or vaccination appointments.

Even as the number of deaths being reported daily have been recording an upward trend, people have grown so de-sensitized by the reported deaths that it had become only a number – a mere statistic.

It is truly a sad situation when the community had become so complacent about another death. They forget that a family has lost a loved one, maybe a sole breadwinner, a beloved child, son or daughter, parent or grandparent.

For some families who had relatives battling the viral infection, they experienced the loss of family members, one after another within days. Before they could grieve for one, it was time for another funeral.

It was sadder still when only one family member was permitted to view the remains of the deceased through a glass paneled window and none in the bereaved family could honour the deceased with a proper send-off because the authorities would arrange for immediate burial or cremation, without the presence of any family members.

While some grieving families had to live on with a single parent, there are children who have lost both their parents to this dreadful virus.

In reality, those who lost the battle to the virus were beloved people and now their families have the arduous task to live on without them.

And for people who probably passed the virus to their family members who had underlying illnesses – and later died – they have to live on, haunted by survivor’s guilt.

Very often people dismiss the information, unaffected because it was just daily news about happenings to others and not to their family or anyone they know.

Sadly, many have become so fatigued and de-sensitized that they may never relate to the pain and sorrow of losing a loved one to this deadly virus, probably unless the infection or death happened to someone in their own family.

From international news reports, we watched in horror as the number of graves were being dug in rows upon rows, ready to bury the dead. Some countries have set up temporary crematoriums in carparks to cope with the massive number of cremations.

Closer to home, it was reported a few days ago, that Sungai Buloh Hospital was using shipping containers as makeshift morgues as the number of deaths in our country are on the rise. Then we read news about undertakers who are being overwhelmed by the sheer number of burials.

Our healthcare system is being stretched and temporary quarantine centers are on the increase because so many have been infected and needed to be quarantined.

A true picture is emerging from photos and videos shown on national television where healthcare staff – dressed to the hilt in Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – all look exhausted, the Intensive Care Units are almost at full capacity and it will only be a matter of time before they run out of ventilators.

As the Covid-19 virus takes hold of the world, scientists are doing further studies on this infection which attacks the respiratory system and observed that patients who recovered would have lingering symptoms of weakness and lethargy that may vary from patient to patient.

This reminded me of the miserable after-effects of dreadful mosquito-borne viral diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, yellow fever and Zika, and where many have also died from these viruses.

Friends and family members who have recovered from these mosquito-borne viral diseases can never forget the misery of the pain, being weak and lethargic, totally unlike who they were. Thankfully, these symptoms gradually disappeared after a few months.

As for the fast-mutating Covid-19 virus, it is still too early to tell how long its post recovery symptoms may last. It will be some form of misery and something patients who have suffered any viral fevers, would never wish to experience again.

This is truly an unprecedented time and it is not up to the authorities alone to offer solutions but the rakyat must also do our part.

The advice from the Health DG to wear double masks when in crowded areas like hospitals, is indicative of how rampant the infections are and how serious the situation is developing. Then yesterday, he called on the nation to go on self-imposed lockdown for the next two weeks.

So let us not wait for MCO 3.0+ or 4.0 with stricter restrictions to be enforced before we do our part to break the chain of infection. Let us be sensitive to what is happening around us and exercise self-discipline to reduce our own movements.

It will take us one step closer to reducing the number of infections and possible deaths, one step more to reviving the economy and a further step towards reopening the borders to welcome visitors and for our own family reunions and travel.

Not only will our healthcare workers thank you, your own community and the whole nation will appreciate your self-discipline to help break the chain of infection.

In so doing, we are not only helping the business sector but also helping ourselves to get another step closer to recovering a sense of normalcy again.

Thank you in advance, for your part in helping to stop the spread of infection.

From The Topp to Lifestyle RoofTop at Toppen

In April 2018, I was at the event that announced the building of the Toppen Shopping Center, the mall linked to the first IKEA store outside the Klang Valley.

The ground-breaking for the multi-storey car
park with the Lifestyle RoofTop on top

In June 2019, I had the privilege to witness the Handing-Over of Keys to representatives of Brands that will open in Toppen as tenants and had a first peek at the progress of the building that was fast taking shape next to IKEA Tebrau.

Just as announced, Toppen was officially opened on 13 November 2019, and I had fun witnessing the event that kicked off an itinerary of day-long celebratory activities.

This April, I was at Toppen again for yet another announcement and a sneak peek at the construction site of the multi-storey Lifestyle RoofTop, which started in early April 2021 and is expected to be completed by Q3 of 2022.

A sneak peek at construction in progress

Staying on track with the shopping centre’s vision to enhance a seamless customer experience, Toppen will build a Lifestyle RoofTopp on top of a nine-storey structure adjacent to the existing building, with an exciting retail mix at the top two floors.

The Lifestyle RoofTopp will offer 617,000 sq ft of car park space with about 1,600 parking bays with convenient links for easy access to Toppen, IKEA Tebrau and the surrounding areas.

As Toppen and its anchor tenant, IKEA Tebrau continue to provide visitors with a safe and accessible meeting place in its one-stop shopping destination, The Topp, the rooftop space at the top of Toppen Shopping Centre, has been a popular space for people of all ages to enjoy the various activities organised here.

An artist's impression of the facade of the
multi-storey car park with Lifestyle RoofTopp

More car parking bays will help to accommodate the high volume of visitors who are going to Toppen to shop and dine, or enjoy fun activities at The Topp like wall-climbing and a splashing good time with the kids at the splash park.

Toppen has also adapted to the concept of physical distancing by developing a multi-storey car park with a Lifestyle RoofTopp to further distribute visitors and allow tenants to create their own attractions within the variety of large spaces provided.

A similar retailtainment concept will be developed in the Lifestyle RoofTopp with retail spaces that will offer Food and Beverage, entertainment, health and fitness as well as co-working spaces.

An artist's impression of the retailtainment
space at the Lifestyle RoofTopp

The mood was upbeat at the event as Adrian Mirea, Shopping Centre and Mixed-Used Director, IKEA Southeast Asia and Arnoud Bakker, Head of Leasing IKEA Southeast Asia, emphasized that the development of the Lifestyle RoofTopp is a testament of their dedication to growing Toppen. 

Following the successful launch of Toppen in November 2019, the retail market underwent significant challenges due to the global pandemic.

As they worked closely with tenants to ensure their success, Toppen remained resilient throughout this difficult time.

“As restrictions eased, we were inspired by the eagerness of the Johor community as they returned to our center. 

Multi-storey car park launch gambit: [L to R]
Adrian Mirea, Vasilisa Kuznetsova
and Arnoud Bakker
With the increasing number of Toppen and IKEA visitors per year, the plan was to create a better experience for our visitors coming from near and afar,” said Mirea.

“Now, more than ever, we know how important it is to encourage community-building and create a better everyday life for the many people visiting our meeting places.

We rearrange our spaces according to what the community needs, and co-create events and unique experiences for them to enjoy.

This cannot be done without the tenants who have been fully supportive of us since the beginning.

This is just one of the many ways to improve ourselves as we continue to make Toppen the heart and hub of the Johor Baru community,” he added.

One for the album: The team at Toppen

After their plans to build a new 86-metre elevated pedestrian bridge to link Toppen and neighbouring AEON Tebrau, were unveiled last October, this bridge has since been completed to facilitate safe and convenient access for visitors between both buildings.

“Ease of accessibility on foot and vehicle traffic via the surrounding infrastructure is key to us as each touchpoint is designed to meet the needs of our communities,” said Vasilisa Kuznetsova, Centre Manager of Toppen Shopping Centre.

During the month of Ramadan, visitors of Toppen will be able to enjoy Iftar at The Topp where they can break their fast at the space provided while enjoying movies and special performances on the stage.

Toppen has even provided foldable floor mats for families and friends to spread on the ground for a traditional breaking-of-fast time together at The Topp. Visitors can also take part in other initiatives like the free weekly Zumba classes.

From The Topp to the Lifestyle Rooftop, now we have something exciting to look forward to at Toppen, very soon.

Toppen Shopping Centre is located at No. 33 Jalan Harmonium, Taman Desa Tebrau, 81100 Johor Baru. Opening hours from 10am to 10pm daily.