Three-quarters of Malays say they will celebrate country’s biggest festivity Hari Raya behind closed doors: Poll

The Education Ministry has advised parents not to let their sick children go to school but to seek professional medical attention. PHOTO: AFP. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

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PUTRAJAYA, May 18, 2020, Malay Mail. The National Security Council expressed optimism today that public health safety can be maintained come Aidilfitri despite the threat of new coronavirus infections, based on its survey that found most Malays are against opening up their doors to visitors, Malay Mail reported.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob revealed today that three-quarters of respondents from the government public survey remained guarded about Covid-19, even as the deadly outbreak appeared to have abated over the last two weeks.

Ismail said 74 per cent of those polled had indicated unwillingness to celebrate the country’s biggest festivity with people outside their own household, while 20 per cent said they would visit relatives. Another six per cent said they would open their homes to neighbours.

“If this is the trend then hopefully I think we don’t need to worry too much,” he said at the council’s daily Covid-19 briefing.

But even if just 20 per cent of respondents said they would open their doors for visits by relatives, the number would still amount to a few million.

Ethnic Malays, who are by legal default Muslims, form close to 70 per cent of the country’s 33 million population.

Unlike other Muslim-majority countries, Aidilfitri is culturally a much bigger celebration here. It has become customary for close and extended families to visit each other, a practice that often extends for an entire month.

And with most restrictions enforced under the movement control order now lifted, there is concern that increased movement during the Hari Raya celebrations, expected to start this Sunday, could spark a new surge of infections.

Some public health experts have already called on the authorities to lock the country down again and prohibit any celebration apart from those from within the same household.

But the Ministry of Health is banking on the public to practice self-discipline.

Health Director General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, the official leading the government’s fight against Covid-19, himself had discouraged people from celebrating and telling them to stay home.

Still, the NSC had decided that families could still celebrate for a day, and that no more than 20 family members can be in one place at a time.

Today, the senior minister said he “hoped” those wanting to visit relatives during Hari Raya would refrain from doing so and emulate the majority.

“If 74 per cent said they would just celebrate with family members within the same household and not opening their homes even to extended family members, that is what we actually hoped for,” he said.

“I just hope the 20 and six per cent would do the same.”

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