KUALA LUMPUR, April 3 — Health authorities said today they may discourage mass gatherings for six months or even a year, amid the Covid-19 outbreak that has infected 3,333 people in Malaysia.
Although the Movement Control Order (MCO) will end in two weeks, Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah pointed out that public practices have changed, such as washing hands frequently, practicing safe distancing of at least one metre from each other, and not giving the “salam”.
“As for gatherings, for example six months or a year, we will see if we won’t encourage mass gatherings at all,” Dr Noor Hisham told a press conference.
“So, about Ramadan bazaars, maybe we need creative and innovative ideas, like during the first phase of the MCO where we saw a 70 per cent increase in food delivery to homes, like GrabFood.
“Maybe we can promote e-Ramadan bazaars, where food can be delivered to homes. We will look at this, or follow Ministry of Health (MOH) guidelines, which are to avoid mass gatherings.”
Senior Defence Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob reportedly said earlier today that if there is an extension of the MCO, Ramadan bazaars will not be permitted. The Muslim fasting season may start on April 23, while the MCO is targeted to end on April 14.
Dr Noor Hisham also said today that one of the reasons for the high number of Covid-19 cases in Selangor, the hardest-hit state in Malaysia, was tahfiz and madrasah schools linked to people who attended the tabligh gathering in Sri Petaling mosque here last month.
He pointed out that Hulu Langat recorded 300 Covid-19 cases as of today, out of over 600 cases in Selangor. Sungai Lui in Hulu Langat, where seven villages have been put under the Enhanced Movement Control Order (EMCO) that requires residents to stay at home, accounted for 90 cases. Twenty-five of those 90 cases were linked to the tabligh gathering, while 65 were close contact cases. Forty-one tahfiz students in Sungai Lui tested positive for coronavirus.
Out of a total of 210 cases outside Sungai Lui in Hulu Langat, 25 were linked to the Muslim religious gathering in Sri Petaling, while 185 were close contact cases.
“One of the reasons that 51 per cent of Selangor’s cases [are in Hulu Langat] has got to do with the Sri Petaling gathering that has spread to madrasah schools,” the Health DG said.
On the Sri Petaling tabligh gathering, 19,032 people have been screened and 15,970 samples have been taken. A total of 1,465 participants of the gathering have tested positive for Covid-19, while 10,213 tested negative, and 4,292 were still waiting test results. About 3,000 attendees have yet to be screened.