Coronavirus: Malaysia debates holding Ramadan bazaars amid virus threat
KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysia's medical experts are against the government allowing the popular Ramadan bazaars to be held this year, fearing a spike in new coronavirus cases, even as officials seem torn over the issue.. Read more at straitstimes.com.
The annual bazaars feature stalls selling freshly cooked food set up along roads and in open-air car parks all over the country, and are packed by hungry Muslims looking for food to break their day-long fast.The Muslim fasting month starts on April 23, nine days after the last day of movement curbs on April 14.
The states of Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Terengganu and Selangor have banned the bazaars this year.Singapore, too, has announced that the bazaars - held in Geylang Serai and in the void decks of HDB blocks in many places - won't he held this year.The federal Malaysian government seems to be torn over the issue, as the bazaars are popular among the majority Malay Muslims, while tens of thousands of traders across the country's 13 states and in the three Federal Territories (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan) depend on these makeshift stalls to make big bucks for one month.
Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa on Wednesday indicated that the bazaars might be modified and human traffic managed to prevent congestion."I have instructed Kuala Lumpur City Hall and Putrajaya Corporation to look into introducing revised formats for Ramadan bazaars. We have to do away with the old ways of large crowds in compact spaces,"he said, as quoted by The Star newspaper.
"For example, the local authorities can look into reducing the number of bazaars and designate special areas as bazaar locations."Traders can pre-pack food to ensure there is less human contact."The Health Ministry's director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said proper crowd control measures would be required if Ramadan bazaars were to be proceed.
"Suggestions to organise"drive-thru" Ramadan bazaars or online bazaars are new and innovative ideas that the ministry can consider," said Dr Hisham."What we want to do is to prevent large gatherings and continue to impose social distancing among members of the public.
But the Academy of Medicine Malaysia (AMM) said it strongly opposes the holding of the bazaars this year."AMM strongly disagrees with any plan to hold Ramadan bazaars this year, given the ongoing threat of Covid-19," said Professor Dr Rosmawati Mohamed in a statement on Wednesday (April 1) signed by all 11 AMM colleges, as cited by The Star.
The academy is a registered body representing all medical specialists in Malaysia, with 11 colleges of various medical specialties."Close contact will inevitably occur in parking areas, en-route and between customers and vendors," Dr Rosmawati said."The premature easing of social distancing may potentially lead to a third wave of infections."
Said Dr Ismail Merican, the former Health Ministry's director-general who was at the centre of the fight against SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) 17 years ago, said everyone must be prepared to wait some six months before going back to their normal lives.
He said people must still practise social distancing and avoid crowds such as Ramadan bazaars, mass gatherings and weddings."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," Tan Sri Ismail told The Star.Read more: The Straits Times »
Unless you want to give new meaning to the term, shop till you drop dead 🙄 Seriously what is there to debate? 🙄 Human lives are more important than some bazaar
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