JOHOR BARU: The Chingay festival here is set to go on, with organisers looking to downscale celebrations following the state government’s directive to avoid mass events to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV).
The Johor Baru Tiong Hua Association, which is organising the festival that is popular with locals and visitors alike, said the safety of the community was its main concern.
As such, the association has come up with plans to reduce the risk of the virus spreading among attendees for the festival, which starts tomorrow until Feb 15.
The Johor Baru Chingay Festival has been an annual event here since 1870.
Association president Ho Sow Tong said that one of the plans was to overhaul the way the festival was celebrated, by using vehicles to carry the five deities instead of on foot for the parade.
The deities represent Johor Baru’s five Chinese clan associations — the Teochew, Hokkien, Hainan, Hakka and Cantonese.
“On the parade day on Feb 14, there will be no walking on the street, as lorries will be carrying the deities. This is to reduce crowding and to ensure that the procession is carried out in an orderly and controlled manner, ” he said at a press conference held at Wisma Tiong Hua, here.
Also present were Johor Temple Foundation chairman Lee Poo Sin and Johor Ancient Temple committee honorary secretary-general Lim Kong Yong.
Ho added there would be no main stage this year and no performances – one of the main draws for the crowd.
The duration of the festival would also be shortened, starting at 7pm and ending at 9pm, and not midnight as in previous years.
Aside from that, Ho said temperature screening of attendees would be carried out at the main entrance of the festival at the Xing Gong Temple.
“Hand sanitisers and face masks will be provided on location, but I would advise the public to come prepared with their own as there may not be enough, ” he said.
Ho also advised children aged 12 years old and below, the elderly and those who are frail not to attend this year’s festival.
Instead, he said they could view the event live online through the association’s Facebook page.
The association held a meeting following Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Dr Sahruddin Jamal announcement last week that all government events involving large crowds this month would be postponed due to the current novel coronavirus outbreak.
Sahruddin had also advised organisers of mass events such as Chingay, Thaipusam and Maulidur Rasul if possible, to postpone their events, and if not to try and reduce human to human contact.
After the press conference, Ho spoke about the importance of listening to the advice of the government, specifically the Health Department when it comes to matters such as this.
“I am glad that our event was still allowed to carry on, but I would stress that the safety of the community comes first and we are listening closely to the advice of the relevant authorities, we would ask that the public do the same as well, ” he said.
As of Saturday, Malaysia recorded 16 cases of novel coronavirus infection. Currently, 12 out of 16 positive cases were China nationals while four were Malaysians.
However, neighbouring Singapore has 40 confirmed cases, and the republic has upgraded its ‘Disease Outbreak Response System Condition’ (DORSCON) to orange.
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