Coronavirus: Malaysia mulls deferring Hari Raya public holidays to deter exodus from cities

Malaysia is into its 35th day of the movement control order on April 21, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - Malaysia will look into the possibility of deferring its public holidays for the Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebration, following Indonesia's move to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Malaysia's Senior Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said on Tuesday (April 21) that the government will decide whether the holidays are to be rescheduled after getting views from the Islamic Affairs Minister.

This comes as Malaysia reported 36 new Covid-19 cases on Monday, the lowest new cases since the movement control order (MCO) was imposed on March 18, and no deaths were recorded for the first time since March 17.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo on Tuesday banned the annual hometown exodus, called mudik, for the country of 270 million people, to avert millions of people in the big cities from possibly bringing back the coronavirus infections with them to rural areas.

The mudik, just like Malaysia's balik kampung holidays occurs once a year at the end of the Ramadan fasting month.

Datuk Seri Ismail, when asked if the government planned to take the same approach as Indonesia, said Datuk Seri Zulkifli Mohamad Al-Bakri, the Islamic Affairs Minister would give his views and proposal on this.

"It will not just be about Hari Raya but also on other matters such as the terawih prayers (special evening prayers during Ramadan) that the minister will discuss and propose.

"So, let's wait for what he has to say. Let us start fasting first," said Mr Ismail.

Muslims will start fasting this Friday (April 24), with Hari Raya Aidilfitri, called Idul Fitri in Indonesia, celebrated on May 24.

Malaysian schools and businesses are typically shut for about a week to celebrate the biggest Muslim festival on the annual calendar, with both Muslims and non-Muslims going back to their hometowns.

Indonesia has decided to postpone the festival's holidays to Dec 28 to 31.

Malaysia on Tuesday is into its 35th day of the MCO. The third phase of the movement curbs is from April 15 to 28.

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