With new curbs set to kick in, Muslims readjust plans for Hari Raya
From holding 'Zoom Rayas' to staggering home visits, families work around tighter Covid-19 safety measures
Over the last few weeks, Ms Nur Syaheda Abdul Aziz has cleaned her home, changed the curtains, bought new clothes for her family, and baked lots of cookies, all to welcome her extended family members for Hari Raya Aidilfitri celebrations next Thursday.
However, she has had to adjust her plans after the announcement on Tuesday that the number of visitors for each household a day will be reduced to five from eight, from tomorrow.
The size of social gatherings has also been reduced to five, and people are advised to keep to two or fewer gatherings a day.
With the new limit on visitor numbers, Ms Nur Syaheda, 30, will now visit only her parents and in-laws in person, and celebrate "Zoom Raya" with the other relatives instead.
Despite most of her preparations "going wasted", she is grateful that at least "some sort of family gatherings" are still allowed, which was not the case last year during the circuit breaker.
"(Our extended family) actually came up with a plan to visit our parents on different days across the weekend so as to not break the rules," Ms Nur Syaheda told The New Paper.
The mother of two girls aged two and three is looking forward to her younger one's first full experience of the festivities.
"Last year, she experienced it only online due to the circuit breaker, so this year I want her to dress up in full Raya clothes and walk around (to experience)."
The tighter new measures, which include a reduction in the number of employees allowed back in offices, closure of indoor gymnasiums and fitness studios, and restrictions in the number of people allowed at large events, kick in tomorrow and will be in place until May 30.
They are aimed at stopping the spread of Covid-19 in the wider community after a recent spike in cases and the emergence of virus clusters, including one at Tan Tock Seng Hospital.
Ms Nur Syaheda, a nurse at Singapore General Hospital, is on the front line in the fight against the pandemic, and she understands the importance of following the rules and staying safe.
She said: "We need to understand and accommodate the rules, especially with the new clusters (of community cases). I hope the pandemic can end soon and we can celebrate next year."
President Halimah Yacob had expressed similar sentiments on Wednesday, when she said she understood the disappointment some in the Muslim community felt as the stricter regulations will kick in just before Hari Raya Aidilfitri.
But she said the latest measures to curb the spread of the virus are necessary to better protect all Singaporeans, given the rise in infections and new variants.
Madam Halimah said that despite the limitations, the spirit of Hari Raya celebrations remains, whether they are celebrated in a big family gathering or smaller groups, as Muslims mark the end of a month of fasting.
Muslim families that TNP spoke to agreed.
Mr Malek Sjamsir, 40, had planned to stop his drinks business for a week to celebrate the occasion and visit nine extended family households, including those of his siblings, parents and in-laws.
But he will now be going only to his parents' and in-laws' homes.
He will also cut short his "leave" from work, by stopping sales for just two days after Hari Raya instead of closing for a week until May 20.
"(The new measures) have affected our festive mood, but nevertheless we still have to obey them for the safety of everyone," he said.
New biomedical graduate Ezabelle Zainalabidin, her parents and older sister will be hosting celebrations for her aunt's family of four and her uncle this year, fitting the five people regulation perfectly.
However, the 20-year-old will not be able to visit her grandaunt and her extended family, a visit she had been looking forward to since the last year's Hari Raya.
Ms Ezabelle said: "We anticipated that we could actually visit our extended family this time, and it has been so long since I met some of them last year, and I missed the growing-up stage of my newborn cousins. But with the current situation, it will be quite hard to do so."
She will now be connecting with her extended family through online sessions instead. For now, she will be focusing on spending quality time with her close-knit family during the holiday.
"We have different schedules, so seeing each other at home is quite hard. Having a public holiday to be at home together is something that I will treasure," she said.