PETALING JAYA,Feb 5: A former deputy health minister has backed the ban on gatherings for Chinese New Year (CNY), saying it would be almost impossible to enforce Covid-19 rules.

Speaking to FMT, Dr Lee Boon Chye said it was better to avoid family visits to reduce the risk of the virus spreading.

He was commenting on the government’s CNY rules which have drawn a backlash from the public.

Some have questioned the rationale for banning family gatherings while allowing pasar malam (night markets) to operate.

“To be fair, you cannot compare allowing pasar malam to open with CNY reunion dinners at home,” said Lee.

“When people visit their family members, they tend to come into close contact in a confined space.”

In the case of night markets, they are held in open areas where limits are placed on the number of people allowed in at any one time and everyone is required to wear a mask at all times.

Lee said allowing family visits even with rules in place will be difficult to enforce and that a single reunion dinner could involve three generations. In large families, this could mean a big crowd.

“To me, we should skip gatherings altogether. It is just for one year. We can still meet virtually.”

Meanwhile, DAP’s Lim Guan Eng urged Putrajaya to review its CNY rules, describing them as “insensitive and disrespectful” to the community.

He said allowing reunion dinners and gatherings among those in the same household would mean just having an “ordinary dinner”.

“If my parents live down the road, are they supposed to celebrate and eat alone, and cannot be visited by their family members?

“This is going to be a lonely and empty CNY for many senior citizens,” he said in a statement, adding the rules made no sense.

He also said there is unhappiness that prayers at temples had been prohibited, except for up to five members of the temple committee, when more people are allowed for other religious practices.

Former Sabah health minister Frankie Poon shared similar sentiments on the rules, saying a reunion dinner meant having everyone back together.

“Family members who might have the virus will of course not participate. However, those who do not, and have made sure they are free of the virus, will of course feel safe about going home.

“I think everyone is mature enough not to hurt their family members. It’s been one year already, so everyone should know how to handle this situation,” he told FMT.

Poon said the government should develop rules which “made sense” and step up enforcement.


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