GEORGE TOWN: The Chinese community has been urged to postpone this year’s Qing Ming festival (All Souls Day), and to pray from home to avoid any unnecessary social or religious gatherings which could help spread the Covid-19.
Dr Hor Chee Peng, the secretary-general of the Dr Wu Lien-Teh Society, Penang, and also the Clinical Research Associate, Institute for Clinical Research, National Institutes of Health, Malaysia, said Malaysians should try to minimise human contact during the upcoming annual Qing Ming which is expected to see a rise in the number of families returning to pay respects to their departed loved ones at the cemeteries and columbariums.
“Amid the pandemic, we ought to be socially responsible to protect ourselves, our loved ones and the community at large.
“We need to strictly adhere to the preventive measures to curb the spread of this catastrophic disease. The nationwide restricted movement order is aimed at flattening the exponential growth of the virus.
“We urge solidarity from individuals and the community with united action against Covid-19, ” he said in a statement.
Dr Hor also urged religious leaders to proactively call off organising mass public events or gatherings, indoor and outdoor, and consider reverting to the digital platform for the public to take part from home.
The annual Qing Ming festival falls on April 4 this year with activities beginning 10 days before or after the actual day.
“As much as we wish to honour our ancestors and loved ones, they would always want us to stay healthy and well! All of us have a role to play in protecting our wider community, ” he added.
Lifestyle writer Jiro Khor, 32, said with the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak, his family is uncertain whether they should proceed to pay homage at the cemetery this year.
“Things have not been looking good lately and nobody knows how long the movement control order is going to last.
“If the Covid-19 outbreak continues until the end of March, I think we will have to skip tomb-sweeping this year, ” he said yesterday.
Daycare centre manager Elaine Cheng, 30, who travels with her husband annually to Taiping to observe the festival, said it was unlikely that their extended family members would be gathering together this year.
“We will probably travel separately and visit the graves on different days. If the situation is not too bad by April 4, we will still go and pay our respects, We will probably go as early as 4am or 6am, ” she said.Penang United Hokkien Cemeteries chairman Ong Teik Khim said although Qing Ming was an enduring tradition, some did not observe it any more.
“Some tombs have not been visited for years or decades as their descendants had left or moved away. This year, the public may not travel or move as freely as in the past years.
“We hope that if families want to visit graves and columbariums, they would not come in big groups.
“In this current situation, it is better for fewer people to gather at the same place, ” he said.
Also known as Chinese All Souls Day or Tomb-Sweeping Day, the festival has been observed for more than 2,500 years for family members to pay respects to their dearly departed.
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