Health experts: Keep borders closed this Hari Raya

Health experts: Keep borders closed this Raya

The interstate travel ban should remain during the upcoming Hari Raya Aidilfitri festive period as Covid-19 infections are still high, health experts say.

Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said Putrajaya should not lift the restrictions until the numbers drop to double digits.

He added that the contact tracing system remains weak and, due to that, a mass movement of people should not be allowed.

He also urged authorities to limit the number of people visiting families to ensure physical distancing, and to ensure the one metre distancing between patrons in restaurants is strictly followed.

He said that the standard operating procedures placed during Chinese New Year in February was effective as there was no spike in cases in the peninsula.

In January, the National Security Council announced SOPs for Chinese New Year. It included having no more than 15 family members from different households being allowed to dine together for their reunion dinner, provided they live within 10km of each other.

These family members were also not permitted to travel across state or district boundaries as most of the country was under the second movement control order at the time.

He said not restricting gatherings may cause cases to shoot up with family members not following physical distancing.

Lee, who is the Gopeng MP, added that the health ministry must improve on the current contact tracing within 48 hours of a case in order to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“If this can be done, the authorities may review the interstate ban. Otherwise, we may see a spike in cases again as millions of people travel across states,” he said.

Malaysian Medical Association president Dr M Subramaniam concurs, saying that Covid-19 cases are already expected to rise with people visiting Ramadan bazaars over the next 30 days.

He too urged authorities to continue to restrict interstate travel.

“People may want to spend Raya with families after the lockdown last year, but for health’s sake, perhaps we could perhaps restrain ourselves a bit longer so that the numbers are controlled,” Subramaniam told FMT.

He said that the government may have to make tough decisions to limit the number of people visiting friends and family within a 20km radius for contact tracing purposes. - FMT