Kuala Lampur, Feb. 7 — I used to live in an apartment where my immediate neighbours were Chinese, with the only Malay five doors away. We – those on the same floor, if not the whole block – celebrated Chinese New Year, Hari Raya Puasa, Hari Raya Haji and Christmas – in that order every year.
Unfortunately, there was not an Indian or Indian family on the same floor. But Deepavali was no less vigorously celebrated.
The Chinese say that Chinese New Year (CNY) is mainly a cultural celebration and not a religious one. But a large part of Hari Raya as it is celebrated by the Malays in the “nusantara” is cultural as well. The religious part of Hari Raya being limited to: that it is “haram” (prohibited) to fast on the day and it is “wajib” (obligatory) to pay the “zakat fitrah”, if not done during Ramadan, before the “salat Raya” (prayers) which is only “sunat” (recommended). So is the “takbir”.
Like the Chinese, the Malays celebrate Hari Raya with families and friends. Hence, the importance of the family gathering when the entire family takes the opportunity to come together, appreciate each other together and have a meal together.
It may not be called reunion dinner, but it reunites the family. It’s loaded with emotions and food, with each member of the family chipping in to prepare the rendang, ketupat, lemang, sambal goreng and what have you on Raya eve and to spring clean the house and put up the new curtains, cushion covers and many more.
Now, imagine the authorities prohibiting the family gathering on Hari Raya because of Covid-19.
That’s what precisely happened to the Malays in Singapore on May 24, 2020 when Hari Raya Puasa was celebrated. The circuit breaker – that’s the MCO here – was then in force. The rule was:
“An individual must not permit any other individual to enter his or her ordinary place of residence for any reason other than [as specified in para (a)-(d)].”
So, there was no “salat Raya” (the mosques were locked up); no “rumah terbuka” (only parts that were open were the windows) and therefore no feasting together – reunion feast if you like; no “bersalam-salaman” and “bermaaf-maafan”. The Muslims there were well advised in advance to strictly observe the rules.
Watch the video here.
Likewise, why not if “tahun ini lain sikit” for CNY?
Malaysia may see an updated version of the standard operating procedure (SOP) on CNY with the government due to announce it on Monday. MCA president Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong has urged for patience.
But Singapore has put in place “safe management measures” to reduce the risk of community transmission during CNY. There will be a cap of eight unique visitors per household per day.
Visits to family during CNY will also be limited to not more than two households per day. Otherwise, family and friends should connect digitally.
Now, people may say that the Singapore government does not restrict the gathering to people living in the same household, unlike the much criticised and mocked SOP announced by Senior Minister (Security) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob last Thursday.
That is true. But Singapore is in Phase 3 now after it relaxed the rules following the enforcement of the circuit breaker.
When the circuit breaker first came into force in April 2020, the rule was as stated above. Dinners were among family members living in the same house. Family members, even those who were residing at the same apartment block but in separate units or floors, were prohibited under the circuit breaker rules to visit each other, let alone having meals together.
The experts have urged the people to assume that they may be infectious when considering meeting others – family members or friends.
It is the small gatherings in household settings that are fuelling the Covid-19 surge, here and elsewhere. Gatherings like thanksgiving dinners and reunion dinners. Gatherings with family and friends who do not live in the same can increase the chances of getting or spreading Covid-19 or the flu.
The then director of the US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) had raised the alarm way back in September 2020 when reports showed that the spread of the virus in the community (community transmission) had continued at social and family gatherings where observance of social distancing and mask wearing were not followed. This was due to people assuming that family members and friends were “healthy” and not infected since they did not show any symptoms.
Highly infectious asymptomatic individuals then infected multiple people in just a single gathering. Size doesn’t matter. Anytime people from different households get together, the risk of infection increases.
The CDC has maintained the advisory that the safest way to celebrate holidays is to celebrate at home with people who live in the same house.
Let’s be sensible and safe. This CNY, let it be “lain sikit.”
That’s the best way to protect oneself and others.
* This is the personal opinion of the writer or organisation and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online.
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