Stagger Raya visits, health DG advises hosts

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah says the issue is not the number but people must follow the SOPs laid out by the government.

PUTRAJAYA: The health ministry today suggested that hosts stagger the visits of those coming over to their homes to celebrate Hari Raya to reduce the risk of Covid-19 infection.

Commenting on the prime minister’s statement that visits in the same state should not exceed 20 a group, health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said the issue “isn’t the number”.

He said what is important is for people to follow the ministry’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) when it comes to social distancing.

He said that in a case of an apartment, a crowd of 20 would be breaching the SOPs on gathering in a confined space.

“The number is relative. It depends on the house. If our home is small, then they need to look into making staggered appointments or visits from family members,” he said at his daily briefing here.

In announcing the one-month extension of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) yesterday, Muhyiddin Yassin said “small” Hari Raya parties of not more than 20 people would still be allowed, despite a general ban on gatherings and close contact activities.

The decision was criticised by a public health watchdog which said it would defeat social distancing measures.

The Galen Centre for Health and Social Policy said 20 people in a house was still a crowd, and that it was not practical to expect hosts to limit the number of guests.

Its chief executive Azrul Mohd Khalib said in such private settings, it was not possible to practise social distancing or virus containment measures such as wearing face masks.

Noor Hisham, however, said the figure of 20 referred to family members.

“We are not encouraging people to visit, but family members. In some families, there are 10 people or 15 or 20.

“Even so, we need to protect the elderly, namely the parents and grandparents, as 50% of the Covid-19 deaths involved those above 50,” he said, adding that one should refrain from giving “salam” or kissing.

He said if social distancing was impossible, it would be best to reduce the number of visiting relatives or even to return to one’s hometown.

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