AUCKLAND, March 25 — The duty manager at the hotel we're staying at calls up to our room with the bad news: They’re shuttering as of noon Wednesday.
We won’t have a place to stay while stranded in New Zealand.
This is the same scenario facing many other Malaysians currently stuck here due to flight cancellations and transit lockdowns of regional transportation hubs such as Singapore, Australia and Taiwan.
According to Nur Izzah Wong Mee Choo, Malaysian High Commissioner to New Zealand, the Malaysian High Commission has tabulated around 80 Malaysians travelling in New Zealand who are unable to get home due to the situation.
They have been seeking clarification from the New Zealand government over this issue and others such as visas as many Malaysians are worried they might be overstaying due to the four-week Level 4 lockdown.
“We are trying to contact everyone. I’m trying to call because our first priority is to make sure of their well-being and secondly to help them secure accommodation before the level 4 lockdown starts at midnight.”
Locating everyone is a task in itself as most travelling Malaysians (me included) do not read the fine print in our passports advising us to register with the Malaysian High Commission or embassy at our destination country.
Come 11:59pm Wednesday, March 25, New Zealand will enter level four of the Covid-19 threat alert system. This means the country will be in lockdown for four weeks and hence the urgency to get a roof over our heads before we are kicked into the streets.
While we understand now that hotels do come under the list of essential services, after the initial confusion shared even with the hotel staff themselves, many hotels are opting to close for the duration of the lockdown due to operational costs.
Time to get help.
The Malaysian High Commissioner implores those who haven't done so to register themselves with them. Email [email protected] your name, gender, IC/passport, contact number and location.
If and when the High Commission can arrange for evacuation, then at least your name is on the list.
She adds, “You can also contact us at a 24-hour hotline number 021-0440188. If you haven’t found accommodation, try moving to motels where they have cooking facilities, as there won’t even be takeaways allowed under level 4.”
Supermarkets will still remain open, however, so stranded Malaysians can still buy food and produce.
Assisting the Malaysian High Commission is a volunteer group of concerned Malaysians living in New Zealand.
The New Zealand Malaysia Business Association (NZMBA) has been trying to do whatever it can do to help since the crisis started two days ago.
NZMBA President Dave Ananth, a Malaysian-born tax lawyer, says “We are trying to get Malaysians places to stay where they can be with other Malaysians. So they feel at home at a time like this.”
Dave told me he’s offering free legal advice to stranded Malaysians in New Zealand; they have a doctor too for those with medical queries.
“Basically we are a community of Malaysians living in New Zealand trying to help our fellow Malaysians in need. We have camper vans, rice cookers, even mi goreng! Just ask!”
The outpouring of kindness and generosity amazes us. Or maybe it shouldn’t, because we are Malaysians. When the going gets tough, Malaysians get going.
And fortunately for us, we finally found a roof over our heads too.
We’ve been rescued in the nick of time by a Kiwi friend who found us a place to stay once he discovered our predicament. His words: “Stay as long as you need, till you can get home.”
Let’s not forget the kindness of our host country too.
It’s no one’s fault we are in this terrible situation and we are all in this together.
1. For more updates, please visit the Malaysian High Commission in New Zealand’s Facebook page at https://m.facebook.com/malaysianHCNZ/
2. If you’re a Malaysian stranded in New Zealand and need accommodation, or you can help find accommodation for stranded Malaysians in New Zealand, please contact
the New Zealand Malaysia Business Association (NZMBA) as follows:
- President Dave Ananth: +64 21 021 68888 (calls and WhatsApp)
- Secretary Pam Louis: +64 22 085 6608 (WhatsApp only)