Sin Chew Daily
Hari Raya is just around the corner. In past years, this whole place would be a hive of activity as Muslims across the nation were prepared to celebrate the big day. Malls would be packed to the brim with businesses rushing out last-minute promotions to lure customers.
But the atmosphere this year is very much different.
The coronavirus has cast a long shadow over the entire planet. MCO has been implemented in this country since March 18 to bring the virus to check. Although we have seen some positive results during the past two months and have successfully flattened the curve, we still see double-digit numbers of daily new positive cases in recent weeks. This shows that the coronavirus threats are still very much alive and we have yet to claim success in our hard-fought battle against the virus. Both the government and the people must not let down their guard despite the festive celebrations, lest all our previous efforts go in vain.
Hari Raya is the most important festive season for Muslims in this country. It is an occasion friends and family members come together and share the joy together. It has become a tradition for Malaysians to go back to their hometowns during the festive season to celebrate with their families, but things are different this year.
Even if the government has earlier announced that cross-state travels would be banned during the festive season, many still take chances trying to drive across state borders to see their families.
On Tuesday, the police stopped a total of 3,212 private vehicles trying to make the cross-state journeys. On Wednesday, 2,412 vehicles were ordered to turn back. In Kuantan police district, as many as 1,300 people were queuing up at the district police headquarters to apply for a permit to go back to their hometowns, while the Johor police revealed earlier between 1,000 and 1,500 cross-state applications were received each day, 70% for Raya celebration.
We can understand the desire of Muslims to go back to their hometowns to celebrate with their families. Nevertheless, threats from the coronavirus have not subsided yet and mass interstate travels will only exacerbate the situation.
Lately a pregnant woman from Ampang, Selangor returning to Kelantan awaiting delivery was diagnosed with COVID-19, and this speaks volumes of the risks of interstate travels.
In the latest development, the government has decided to ban all people from traveling back to their hometowns save for emergency. While many Malaysians will feel disappointed with this decision, we should understand the government's intention of containing the outbreak and safeguarding the health of everyone.
In the face of the virus outbreak, it is imperative that Malaysians learn to adapt to the new normal ways of life and celebrate Raya and other festive seasons in a different approach.
Although we are not able to go back to our hometowns to see our family members and friends as a consequence of the outbreak and MCO, we can always stay in touch with them by way of communication devices or video-conferencing apps to convey our festive greetings.
Additionally, we must always keep in mind social distancing rules while visiting our families and friends within the same state.
Perhaps we are going to celebrate in a very different way this year, the inherent meanings of festive celebration remain much the same, and the festive season is still impregnated with joy, warmth and love, as it always is.
SELAMAT HARI RAYA AIDILFITRI to all Muslim Malaysians. Maaf Zahir dan Batin.