‘Not worth the risk’: Parents in Malaysia apprehensive about sending children to daycare despite easing of COVID-19 curbs
KUALA LUMPUR: Parents in Malaysia are refraining from sending their children to daycare facilities and adopting a wait-and-see approach for now, despite the easing of COVID-19 restrictions this week that allowed such centres to resume operations.
Ms R Vichitra, 29, told CNA that despite the need for someone to care for her two children while she is at work, she was “not quite ready” to send them to daycare.
“No matter how many precautions we take, even if one person lets it slip, it can harm not only our children but other children too,” said the nurse on Tuesday (May 5).
Her husband is a doctor and before the movement control order (MCO) was eased, they had to rely on a live-in helper to take care of their children, who are one and four years old respectively.
With the easing of restrictions, they can now send the children from Kuala Lumpur to Selangor to be cared for by their grandparents. The plan is for the children to be looked after by their elders until the end of the month.
Similarly, legal consultant Danial Ashfari, 36 said he and his wife felt it was too soon to send their two-year-old daughter to daycare.
“Now with the easing (of the restrictions), I have brought my parents to our house here to be with my daughter. Honestly, it is not worth the risk of sending her to daycare. Don’t get me wrong our daycare is very clean and careful, but you can’t be too sure overall,” he said.
Malaysia imposed the MCO to restrict domestic and international travels on Mar 18 with the aim of curbing the spread of COVID-19. Six weeks into the MCO, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced last Friday that the government would ease some of the restrictions to allow the majority of the businesses to resume operations.
Before the restrictions were eased on Monday, people from different households were discouraged from visiting each other. Only one person per household was allowed to go out at any given time, making it impossible for parents to send their children to be cared for by others.
READ: Putrajaya says 2 per family can leave home for essential travel, as COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease
Parents interviewed by CNA also noted that those who have alternative childcare arrangements and can afford to do without daycare in the short term are actually in a fortunate situation.
Body wax retailer Nadirah Radzi, 34, said she does not intend to send her daughter for early childhood intervention sessions for now.
“I recognise that I’m privileged, in the sense that I can afford not to send my daughter and still care for her at home,” said Ms Nadirah. Her daughter has special needs and attends regular early childhood intervention sessions in Petaling Jaya.
“I have a helper on standby to assist me with my daughter, but this isn’t the case for many parents, so I understand the move to reopen childcare centres.”
Ms Theresa Chetty, 40, also said she will not send her son to kindergarten for now. The principal for her son’s kindergarten said it would only open on May 12 after the MCO is slated to be lifted entirely, she added.
“As a parent, I’m lucky that my company said we could work from home. My husband is working at home too, and we can juggle.”
“But the moment they ask us to go back to the office, then I’ll need to start looking for someone to help take care of my son … It really depends on the employer,” the writer added.
DAYCARE CENTRES PROCEEDING CAUTIOUSLY
The daycare centres also appear to be adopting a cautious approach for now, both in terms of sanitisation and social distancing.
A childcare centre operator in Petaling Jaya, who only wanted to be known Ms Mary Anne, said they have tried to adhere to the standard operating procedures as prescribed by the authorities, and have begun operations on Monday.
“We took two days over the weekend to clean up the facility and set boxes on the floor to ensure our children maintained social distancing,” she told CNA.
According to the guidelines issued, employees at the childcare have to test negative for COVID-19 prior to the reopening.
When the centre resumes operation, it has to be sanitised and disinfected twice a day. The operator has to demarcate the 1m social distance on the floor.
Childcare staff are also directed to don masks, and educate their young charges on the importance of social distancing and frequent handwashing.
Ms Mary Anne noted that the attendance rate has been low for the first two days. Two students turned up on Monday and five were there on Tuesday, out of 30 enrolled children in total.
She said that although the teachers have found effective teaching methods and activities to avoid contact between the children, many parents have indicated that they would not be sending their children in at least until the end of the month.
READ: Kuala Lumpur businesses open up cautiously on first day after government eases COVID-19 restrictions
Meanwhile, Little Footprints childcare centre in Kuala Lumpur said it was still mulling over whether to open for business, despite the conditional MCO being put in place.
The operator, who only wanted to be known as Yen, pointed out that it would be difficult to enforce social distancing among young children.
She also said: “When you talk about the standard operating procedures that we have to follow like sanitisation and all, it is not really a concern because we usually are very stringent in keeping our premises clean.
“The children will all be sent by their parents, so that is not a worry either. It is my teachers I am worried about because they travel by public transportation.”