Spirit of Hari Raya celebrations remains despite tighter limits on social gatherings, says President Halimah

President Halimah Yacob giving out hampers to beneficiaries at the PPIS Family Services Centre in Bukit Batok on May 5, 2021.
President Halimah Yacob giving out hampers to beneficiaries at the PPIS Family Services Centre in Bukit Batok on May 5, 2021.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Some people may be disappointed by the latest measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, but they are necessary to better protect all Singaporeans, given the rise in infections and new variants, President Halimah Yacob said on Wednesday (May 5).

She added that she understood the disappointment some in the Muslim community felt, as the stricter regulations come just before Hari Raya Aidilfitri on May 13.

But if gatherings and visits were allowed to continue at the present numbers, should infections go up, people would be endangering their family members and loved ones, she said.

Despite the limitations, Madam Halimah said the spirit of Hari Raya celebrations remains, whether they are held in a big family gathering or smaller groups, as Muslims mark the end of a month of fasting.

"We celebrate our ability to overcome challenges," she said, noting that Ramadan is about sacrifice, good deeds and helping one another.

"When we observe these measures, we are caring for each other and that's completely within the spirit of Ramadan," she added.

Madam Halimah was speaking to reporters at the end of a visit to the newly renovated family service centre of the Singapore Muslim Women's Association (PPIS) in Bukit Batok.

The President was asked about the latest measures to tighten rules on social gatherings, which take effect from Saturday to curb the spread of Covid-19 following a spike in the number of community cases.

People will be allowed to gather in groups of up to five only, down from eight currently, and households can receive only five distinct visitors a day.

However, these are less drastic than the limits in place last year, when Hari Raya fell during the circuit breaker, when no visits were allowed.

As a result, many Muslim families got together with family and friends online and took to video calls and videoconferencing to exchange greetings.

President Halimah said she hoped the community will be able to understand the need for the present measures, which are for people's safety.

She shared that she was initially looking forward to having all her married children visit her on the same day.

"Looks like it's not possible, I still need to have them coming in shifts," she said.