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Thursday, April 29, 2021

‘Balik kampung’ exodus may cause ‘surge of new infections’, warn experts

 

The government says all university students, except those from Sarawak, may return to their hometowns for Hari Raya.

PETALING JAYA: Medical experts have raised a red flag over Putrajaya’s move to allow university students to return to their hometowns for Hari Raya Aidilfitri, saying the decision may open a Pandora’s box of new infections nationwide.

Dr Subramaniam Muniandy, president of the Malaysian Medical Association (MMA), said new Covid-19 infections are rising exponentially and could cause the government’s attempts to curb infections to backfire.

He said infections were now at the community level with many index cases unable to be identified.

“Italy had this problem last year when those from the cities went back to their hometowns and infected older folk.

“India is another example we can learn from as the current spread occurred after a religious festival and local elections,” he told FMT.

He was responding to the government’s announcement today that students at all higher educational institutions, except those from Sarawak, would be allowed to return home for Hari Raya.

The higher education ministry said this was decided by the National Security Council (MKN) at a meeting yesterday. It said the students may choose to either return to their hometowns or remain on campus during the festive period.

Malaysia recorded 3,142 infections and 15 deaths yesterday.

Subramaniam said since the decision has been made, university students should play their part in following the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“We hope they will be careful and not allow too many guests into their homes during Raya, or hang around in crowded areas,” he said.

He also said that health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah’s prediction of hitting 5,000 Covid-19 cases a day by end-May may come true if compliance remained weak.

Former deputy health minister Dr Lee Boon Chye questioned whether the government had given up hope in fighting Covid-19 as the move would see infections surge “very quickly”.

He said a big segment of the university students were from Selangor and Kuala Lumpur, areas with the highest cases.

Lee said the government should not have made the decision and should have followed the same SOPs implemented during Chinese New Year in February.

“Once the students start to travel, the repercussions and the risks of spreading virus will be high,” he warned.

During Chinese New Year, 15 people were allowed during reunion dinners, interstate and interdistrict travelling was banned, and the number of worshippers at temples was limited to 30 at any one time. - FMT

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