Feature: Malaysians adapt to new norm for Ramadan as pandemic drags on

2021-05-04 16:35:33 GMT2021-05-05 00:35:33(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

KUALA LUMPUR, May 4 (Xinhua) -- Malaysian Muslims currently observing the month of Ramadan have found themselves needing to adapt to the new norm for their safety and health as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on for a second year.

Among the staples of the season are the Ramadan bazaars, or night markets, which in past years would teem with large numbers of stalls and customers who would visit to purchase food, snacks, clothes and other items sought after during this time.

After not being allowed to operate last year due to the country implementing a strict movement control order (MCO) to slow the spread of the virus, the bazaars have made a come back, a marked improvement and a step seen by many towards normalization.

At one major bazaar in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, the crowd was observed with temperature checks being conducted at entrances and special passes.

While some had mixed feelings about having to adhere to the various movement restrictions, wearing face masks and other standard operating procedures (SOP), all agreed that they wanted to see the end of the pandemic and a return to a normal life.

Among them is Farika Fabri Arman, who has operated a stall at the bazaar for the past 11-years. She said business had yet to return to pre-pandemic levels, with traders having to observe strict SOPs and other measures.

Farika explained that customers were also on the lookout for cheaper goods, being reluctant to spend as much during uncertain times, putting a damper on sales, but at least things had improved compared to the previous year when the movement control order was in place.

Another trader named Mohamad Fitri Amran also said that business was slow due to the economic uncertainty and people's unwillingness to venture outside.

"People are probably afraid to spend and still afraid to go out and my hope for this year is for COVID-19 cases to drop and for us to continue business like it was before this," he said.

Edi Noh Awang, who also works at a stall in the bazaar was more upbeat than others, saying that it was convenient for people to head there as a large number of goods and foodstuff could be found at the same place.

He added that customers and stall operators alike were faithfully complying with the anti-COVID-19 measures, with QR codes on display for visitors to scan and temperature checks at entrances.

"The SOP looks OK. All are complying with the regulations meaning they wear masks, they scan their QR code and check their temperature. The enforcement is good," he said.

Malaysia had seen a spike in cases earlier in the year followed by a second MCO from January to March. Following the lifting of restrictions, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin said there would be no more blanket restrictions enforced, with a targeted approach preferred.

Cases began to rise again in April with several states coming under renewed restrictions including parts of Selangor state and Kedah state, while the whole Kelantan state is under lockdown.

On Tuesday, Malaysia reported 3,120 new COVID-19 infections, bringing the national total to 420,632. Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who coordinates the implementation of COVID-19 restrictions in the country, announced new restrictions along with new guidelines for the Eid al-Fitr holiday.

Although bazaars will continue to be allowed to operate, along with restaurants and most businesses, inter-state travel nationwide is still prohibited while inter-district travel is limited to areas under an eased movement control order.

Regulations for the Eid al-Fitr holiday include family visits allowed in all areas except those under an enhanced MCO, but will be limited to only the first day of the holiday and a maximum of 15 guests.

Hosts of the traditional "open house" will need to provide a body temperature scanner and record the details of visitors for contact tracing, while communal prayers are only allowed in certain areas with eased restrictions. Enditem