Stopping the spread

Thaipusam celebration at Arulmigu Thendayuthapani temple in Johor Baru last year. The religious festival attracts thousands of devotees. - Filepic

JOHOR BARU: Thaipusam and Chingay festival celebrations in Johor may be scaled back and preventive health measures taken following the state government’s directive to organisers to postpone mass events this month.

Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal had said the recommendation was made to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).

“We advise organisers to postpone any events involving a large crowd, including Chingay, Thaipusam and Maulidur Rasul parades, to reduce the risk of transmission of the disease.

“If there is no way to postpone it, organisers should try to reduce the number of people attending or reduce activities that involve mass gatherings, ” he said at a press conference earlier this week at the Mentri Besar’s office at Kota Iskandar.

Dr Sahruddin said the state government had postponed all of its events involving large crowds, including the Malaysia Games Pre-launch (Semarak Juara Sukma) and the Pasir Gudang International Kite Festival.

“The state government takes this issue (coronavirus outbreak) seriously and are taking precautionary steps to avoid its spread here, ” he said.

Following this, Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association president Ho Sow Tong said the association would be calling for an urgent meeting to discuss the Chingay Festival, which is expected to take place on Feb 14.

“The meeting will be followed by a press conference where we will announce our plans for the festival, ” he said when contacted.

The association said Chingay celebrations would continue but scaled down.

“Deities will not be carried on foot during the parade this year but on lorries instead.

“We will also take extra precautionary steps during the festival, such as screening visitors’ temperature and having a dedicated sick bay where those feeling ill can be isolated from the crowd, ” he said.

Meanwhile, when contacted, Sri Balasubramaniam Temple chairman Datuk K.S. Balakrishnan said the Thaipusam procession today would continue but several precautionary steps had been put in place.

“We have medical officers on standby on the day of the celebration and we have also advised devotees to wear face masks, ” he said.

Sri Subramaniar Temple chaiman K. Arumugan said hand sanitisers and face masks would be made available for devotees attending the Thaipusam procession.

“We will prepare some face masks and those attending can ask for if they need any.

“On top of that, we will ensure that there will be ample hand sanitisers for everyone attending the celebration, ” he said, adding that 5,000 to 10,000 people were expected to visit the temple during Thaipusam this year.

It was earlier reported that a 41-year-old man from Selangor had become the first Malaysian to be infected by the coronavirus. His sister was later confirmed as the first case of local transmission.

It brings the number of coronavirus positive cases in Malaysia to 15, comprising 11 Chinese nationals and four Malaysians.

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