Despite the ban, people still try to cross state boundaries for raya. Photo: Bernama

KUALA LUMPUR: With Hari Raya Aidilfitri tomorrow, many Malaysians were still determined to try their luck to sneak across state borders as they head for their hometowns.

It is difficult to understand why there are still people who insist on violating the conditional movement control order (CMCO) despite the authorities issuing reminder upon reminder for people not to travel back as part of the effort to curb the spread of Covid-19.

According to Senior Minister (Security Cluster) Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, on Thursday alone, drivers of 2,539 vehicles who tried to do so were turned back as they did not have permission and came up with all sorts of excuses.

At the press conference on the movement control order (MCO) yesterday, Ismail Sabri said Melaka recorded the most number (886) of attempts to cut across state boundaries, followed by Perak (362) and Penang (284), despite the government’s announcement that no permission would be given.

Ismail Sabri also stressed that the leeway given to married couples living apart to travel across the states once a week have also been rescinded, in keeping with the government’s announcement that no such travel would be allowed for any reason except death or emergencies.

He said on Thursday, the National Security Council (NSC) decided that no more permission would be given for interstate travel following the recalcitrant attitude of the public who insist on going back to their hometowns for Aidilfitri even though the country was still under the CMCO.

The government had previously allowed the people to celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, and came up with a standard operating procedure (SOP) which included visits only on the first day, with not more than 20 people comprising family members allowed in a day, no open houses and the requirement to observe social distancing.

Yet, there were those who insisted on violating these conditions and travelled back to their hometowns. The government also decided yesterday that spending the night was considered a violation of the SOP set for visits allowed during Hari Raya Aidilfitri.

All these rules are part of the effort to break the chain of Covid-19 infections enforced since three months ago and to prevent the start of a new cluster, the ‘balik kampung’ cluster.

So, the government has now decided to impose a heavier penalty on the guilty stubborn people who will now be ordered to turn back at the roadblocks and issued a RM1,000 compound, which must be paid within two weeks.

Meanwhile, Health director-general Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah also expressed his worry over the situation in view of the experience of other countries which saw the number of Covid-19 cases surge when people travelled to their hometowns for a festive celebration.

“So, every Malaysian must observe the SOP, with less or no visits, observe social distancing, and wash their hands often, even when with family members, because it is when they comply that we can keep the number of positive cases to double-digits,” he said in the daily Covid-19 daily press conference yesterday.

Dr Noor Hisham said the CMCO imposed by the government was cost-effective and could control the cases.

He added that Hari Raya Aidilfitri this year was definitely different from previous years, but this did not mean that it could not be celebrated with the same spirit.

He said the one-month fasting during Ramadan should have taught people the true meaning of patience and sacrifice. – Bernama