Health watchdog slams FT green light for Ramadan bazaars

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy asks who will be held accountable if bazaar activities result in a further spread of the Covid-19 virus.

PETALING JAYA: An announcement that Ramadan bazaars will be allowed in the federal territories has prompted a think tank to issue a warning against hasty decisions that may worsen the Covid-19 plague.

Azrul Mohd Khalib, CEO of the Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy, said it would be tragic if the bazaar activities were to result in an increase of infections and the loss of more lives.

“Who would be held accountable then?” he said.

He was commenting on Federal Territories Minister Annuar Musa’s statement yesterday that the bazaars would be allowed to operate in Kuala Lumpur and other federal territories, but with improved crowd management.

The first of Ramadan is expected to fall on April 23. The movement control order (MCO), which came into force on March 18, ends on April 14.

Speaking to FMT, Azrul said there was a lack of wisdom in assuming that people would be safe from infection after the expiry of the MCO.

“It could be many weeks later before we can go back to what was normal,” he said.

He said Annuar should follow the example of authorities in Terengganu and Negeri Sembilan, who have banned Ramadan bazaars for this year.

He commended the two state governments for making the “bold and hard decision” to protect citizens and prevent the possible spread of Covid-19.

Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye said the government should ensure social distancing at the bazaars, both between customers and between them and the hawkers.

Those preparing the food as well as those selling them should be told to take the necessary precautions, he added.

He called for care in locating the bazaars, saying they should not be allowed in areas with high numbers of confirmed Covid-19 cases.

Lee also suggested that the government develop a system to track people going to the bazaars that would, among other things, give information as to their places of residence.