Spirit of Hari Raya celebrations remains despite curbs: President Halimah

President Halimah says she empathises with those in the Muslim community as stricter regulations kick in just before Hari Raya next Thursday

Some people may be disappointed by the latest measures to curb the spread of Covid-19, but they are necessary to better protect all Singaporeans, given the rise in infections and new variants, President Halimah Yacob said yesterday.

She added that she understood the disappointment some in the Muslim community felt as the stricter regulations come just before Hari Raya Aidilfitri next Thursday.

But if gatherings and visits were allowed to continue at the present numbers, should infections go up, people would be endangering their family members and loved ones, she said.

Despite the limitations, Madam Halimah said 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.

"We celebrate our ability to overcome challenges," she said, noting that Ramadan is about sacrifice, good deeds, and helping one another.

"When we observe these measures, we are caring for each other and that's completely within the spirit of Ramadan," she added.

Madam Halimah was speaking to reporters yesterday at the end of a visit to the newly renovated family service centre of the Singapore Muslim Women's Association in Bukit Batok.

The President was asked about the latest measures to tighten rules on social gatherings, which take effect from Saturday to curb the spread of Covid-19 following a spike in the number of community cases.

People will be allowed to gather in groups of up to five, down from eight currently.

And households can receive only five distinct visitors a day.

However, these are less drastic than the limits in place last year, when Hari Raya fell during the circuit breaker, and no visits were allowed.

As a result, many Muslim families took to video calls and videoconferencing to exchange greetings.

President Halimah said she was initially looking forward to having all her married children visit her on the same day this year.

"Looks like it's not possible, I still need to have them come in shifts," she said.

This article first appeared in The Straits Times.