The crowds are back at Ramadan bazaars across the country.

PETALING JAYA: An activist for health causes has called for a ban on open houses and large family gatherings for the coming Hari Raya celebrations in view of the Covid-19 situation.

Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said the ban would go some way in protecting vulnerable people such as the elderly and those with comorbidities.

He told FMT he was surprised that mass gatherings of more than 50 people, like weddings and buka puasa events, were being allowed when Covid-19 infection rates were high.

He said there was now a lack of compliance with the standard operating procedures.

“Based on what I can personally see and what we can see on social media, people are not wearing masks when they attend gatherings. The risk of infection increases significantly when that happens.

“Interstate travel restrictions should also remain while indoor congregational prayers should be restricted to a third of the capacity of any surau, mosque or prayer hall.

“If possible, the mass prayers for Aidilfitri this year should be conducted outdoors and in the open, such as in fields, car parks and large squares where there is open air and good ventilation.”

Recently, infectious diseases expert Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman said there were lessons Malaysia could learn from the unfolding Covid-19 crisis in India, where more than 300,000 people were infected in one day.

Adeeba, who was recently inducted into the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Science Council, also called for a ban on all mass gatherings as well as a rapid vaccine roll-out.

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Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president Dr Subramaniam Muniandy agreed with Adeeba and urged Putrajaya to temporarily halt all mass gatherings until daily cases drop to double digits or the infection rate, or Rt, declines to 0.8.

He said the government should not wait to impose more restrictions as the current spike in cases was as high as before the second movement control order (MCO) in January.

“The government should also rethink its decision to allow Ramadan bazaars to operate,” he told FMT.

“There have been reports of overcrowding at a number of these bazaars. Shifting to an online platform would be a better option.”

He added that SOP compliance remained a major challenge.

“People should know what they should be doing. If we see a crowd building up, we should stay away. But the opposite is happening. It is frustrating,” Subramaniam said.

Azrul said Covid-19 SOPs were sufficient to curb the virus but he added that members of the public would often point to the lenient treatment of public figures.

“When these public figures and politicians get away with their offences, in what seems to be a clear case of double standards, it undermines the credibility of public health measures.

“People start to become cynical about the SOPs. This is the real problem.”



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