PUTRAJAYA (THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Malaysian government's decision to prohibit visits during Hari Raya Aidilfitri is not a cruel one, but a crucial move to prevent the spread of Covid-19, said Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin on Wednesday (May 12).
He said in a televised Hari Raya address that the Covid-19 situation in the country had worsened with hospitals severely overwhelmed and a highly contagious variant of the virus had been discovered within the community.
"The government had to ban inter-state and inter-district travel, restrict social activities and shut down the education and sports sectors.
"Hari Raya visiting is also prohibited, while Aidilfitri prayers at mosques and suraus (prayer halls) are allowed but at a limited capacity.
"I know, many are angry at me. Can't balik kampung (return to hometowns), can't even visit families or friends. Is the government that cruel?
"No, I am not cruel. I made this decision to protect the lives of all of you," he said.
The government from Wednesday imposed a 27-day Movement Control Order nationwide, to stem coronavirus infections. The MCO will end on June 7.
Malaysia celebrates Hari Raya Aidilfitri on Thursday, at the end of the fasting month.
The country has banned both inter-state travel and even inter-district travel - meaning a person living in, say, one district of Selangor cannot cross into any of its other eight districts, except for work.
Malaysia on Wednesday logged 39 deaths, a record high, just three days after notching a record 26 deaths in one day. The country on Wednesday also reported 4,765 cases, the highest daily total in three months.
The Health Ministry has warned that Covid-19 cases could hit between 5,000 and 7,000 a day if the government did nothing to curb the free movement of people and mass gatherings.
PM Muhyiddin in his speech said: "If I allowed house-to-house visiting, what if the guest who comes to your house is Covid-19 positive?".
He said many patients are asymptomatic without knowing they had been infected, and could in turn spread Covid-19 to family members in the house.
"If the person visits 10 other houses, then 10 families could be infected with Covid-19.
"By the end of Aidilfitri, Covid-19 cases in the country might even jump up to tens of thousands a day. May that never happen," said Tan Sri Muhyiddin.
He said the Covid-19 pandemic should not be taken lightly and strict measures had to be taken to address the situation.
"This isn't a thing to be taken lightly. Unpopular and difficult decisions have to be made, but I think it is the right move in order to protect lives and our future," he said.
Mr Muhyiddin said it was vital for the public to comply with Covid-19 the health protocols and to "sacrifice" to help defeat the pandemic.
"It is like going through a war. To save our lives, we must protect ourselves, and staying at home is the best place to be," he said.