PETALING JAYA: Malaysians celebrating Hari Raya Aidilfitri have been advised to take precautions against Covid-19 and the smoke haze which has caused unhealthy levels of air pollution in parts of the country.
Among those sounding a note of caution was deputy prime minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who said Muslims celebrating Aidilfitri should remain vigilant against the new Covid-19 variant XBB1.16, or Arcturus.
He said the infection rate of the new variant has yet to be identified.
“I hope that we will be careful when we are celebrating,” he said after visiting an Aidilfitri sale at Jalan Tunku Abdul Rahman, Kuala Lumpur. Those returning to their hometowns should be careful and focused while driving, he said.
Public health specialists have also called for precautions to be taken against Covid-19 and the haze which still poses danger and risks to respiratory health, said experts, Bernama reported.
According to health ministry data, the number of confirmed Covid-19 cases rose by 87.5% in the fortnight up to April 8, while the number of hospital admissions recorded an increase of 30.5%.
A public health specialist, Farhan Rusli of International Islamic University Malaysia, said the people should practice self-preventive measures when meeting the elderly and children during Hari Raya gatherings.
He said frequent hand-washing and practicing safe physical distancing in crowds, especially with unknown people, are some of the better ways of self-protection.
“Also, take your own gear, such as prayer mats, when going for prayers at mosques. If possible, perform ablution at home beforehand and mask up at all times. The moment you feel unwell, avoid gatherings and test yourself,” he said.
Dr Hanafiah Bashirun, an expert in occupational health, emergency and public health, said the government has not declared the country free of the deadly virus.
“With the transition to endemicity, there is obvious relaxation of SOPs but there is no reason to throw caution to the wind, particularly with the emergence of new sub-variants such as XBB,” he said.
An environmental expert advised the public to limit their time outdoors and to wear masks, because of the hot weather and the haze.
Senior lecturer Shahrul Nadzir of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said masks would help reduce exposure to pollutants, and protect respiratory health.
Masks specifically designed to filter air pollutants, such as N95 or N99 respirators, should be used if they met the appropriate standards and are properly fitted.