Concerns over wellbeing of Chinese families separated by border closures on eve of Lunar New Year

It's Lunar New Year's Eve - a night when families typically get together for a 'reunion dinner' to celebrate, but there are concerns about the wellbeing of some families. 

With COVID-19 separating people across borders, the impact is being felt by people who work in mental health and childcare.

Lunar New Year's Eve is an evening to welcome prosperity, luck, and togetherness and in the wake of COVID-19 those wishes take on even more significance. 

Because while many traditions dictate that extended families come together for a symbolic New Year's Eve feast, some families do not have that option. 

Six-month-old Evelyn Yeung was born in the middle of the two lockdowns. As is typical for many Chinese families, her grandparents were going to come to New Zealand from China to help as caregivers. 

Evelyn's father Fraser Li says it's been a difficult time for the young family. 

"The thing is in that time, you couldn't find any help and it was quite a struggle for us." 

No support network, a hospitality business affected by COVID and a newborn baby. 

"We have to run a cafe at the same time, seven days, you have to be here in the morning and finish late." 

Maternity consultant Kate Sommer ended up spending four months with them - as well as being inundated with work from other Chinese families who also had to scrap plans for family help. 

"For the most part, they were desperate," Sommer says.

"They were really really struggling and with lockdown not being able to be with other Chinese families, I guess."

A mental health helpline for Asians in New Zealand has seen an increase in demand for parenting help. 

But the incidence of anxiety, depression and loneliness is also of concern to counsellors, who note how long people now want to talk. 

Kelly Feng from Asian Family Services has noticed this need. 

"People needing more longer support. On average we spend about 40, 45 minutes per call. and so we can see other calls coming which we sometimes miss as well."

For those missing family, it's hoped the Year of the Ox will bring more reason to celebrate.