Avoid mass gatherings for at least six months after MCO, says ex-Health DG


  • Nation
  • Wednesday, 01 Apr 2020

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians are hoping that they can get back to normal life after the movement control order (MCO) is lifted, but activities cannot return to normal just yet, says a former Health director-general.

Tan Sri Dr Ismail Merican said that everyone must still practise social distancing and avoid crowds such as the annual Ramadan food bazaars, mass gatherings and weddings for at least six months after the MCO period.

"Why six months? It is an arbitrary figure to prevent asymptomatic or mild cases that may linger within the community, or those who have returned from overseas from spreading," he told The Star.

Dr Ismail said that some experts may suggest a year for such measures, but it is up to people to practise self-discipline.

"Know that life cannot be the same for that period of time until and unless we have all the information we need of an evolving new pandemic.

"It is best to continue with the usual universal precautions, maintain good self-hygiene and go out only if necessary.

"Stay home if you are unwell. While we need to instil confidence in our people, we need to also be realistic and not play to the gallery," he said.

On Tuesday (March 31), Federal Territories Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa said his ministry and the Kuala Lumpur City Hall were contemplating whether to approve any large-scale Ramadan bazaars after the MCO ends on April 14.

Following the announcement, many Malaysian social media users expressed disapproval for the annual bazaars for fear of a potential third wave of Covid-19 cases.

Subsequently, Annuar said the ministry might consider using a revised format to include good hygiene practices and reduced human contact such as by pre-packing food.

Dr Ismail said the Health Ministry must call all stakeholders to inform them of what they should and should not do even after MCO has been lifted.

"There should be a guideline," he said, adding that all states should be involved regardless of one's political coalition because equally important is having country leaders that are united in fighting Covid-19.

"Political consideration should take a back seat. Whoever chaired the meeting and whatever directives or advice for control measures must include the whole country," he said.

On the same day, Health director-general Datuk Seri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said that proper crowd control measures were needed if Ramadan bazaars are to be implemented.

The bazaars that people are familiar with may not be an option and they have to be in another form to fulfil the needs of city-dwellers during their fasting month, he said.

In reply to the writer's Facebook post of The Star's article - Health DG: Proper crowd control needed for Ramadan bazaars, Dr Noor Hisham said: "We should innovate new systems and ways of food delivery to avoid public gatherings, take all precautionary preventive measures, (and practise) social distancing and spacing.

"Our guiding principles are crystal clear, and we need to change the annual norms of bazaar Ramadan," he said.

The first day of Ramadan this year is expected to fall on April 23.

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