PETALING JAYA: It may be the season to be jolly, but religious leaders and health experts have urged the Christian community to celebrate Christmas today while observing the standard operating procedures (SOPs) that have been put in place.
It will also be a long weekend for Malaysians.
The Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism hoped that the celebration of Christmas this year would help to bring Malaysians together in the spirit of caring and sharing, as in the case of the other religious festivals Malaysians celebrated this year under SOP restrictions.
“The current pandemic that has lasted for much of this year has taken an emotional and financial toll on millions in our country and the rest of the world.
“However, the crisis has brought Malaysians together as they shared their hardships with one another.
“Our well-being as a nation depends on the love and goodwill shown by the people, these being central themes in the message of Christmas, ” the council said in a joint statement yesterday.
The statement was signed by council president Archbishop Julian Leow Beng Kim, deputy president Sardar Jagir Singh and vice-presidents Datuk RS Mohan Shanmugam, Tan Hoe Chieow and Ven Sing Kan.
The government has put in place several restrictions.
These include no more than 20 guests comprising only close family members for Christmas celebrations held at landed residences on the first day.
“In spite of the current circumstances, may Christmas be a memorable and meaningful one.
“As we approach a new year, we can only pray that the coming months will see a major breakthrough in overcoming the devastating effects of the pandemic in our nation, ” said the council.
Archbishop Leow had previously encouraged church-goers to follow mass online and reminded Catholics to be vigilant in keeping themselves and their loved ones safe from Covid-19.
Christian Federation of Malaysia executive secretary Tan Kong Beng said the head of churches had advised priests and pastors to operate during Christmas under the strict SOP.
“Those in the red zones especially will comply with the relevant regulations. We will be prioritising the safety and health of all our friends, families and colleagues, ” he said.
He wished the Christian community a blessed celebration and reminded them to celebrate with those who are in need.
“The churches will continue to extend assistance to those who need a hand during this challenging time and to continue to give hope to them, ” he said.
Meanwhile, Medical Practitioners Coalition Association of Malaysia president Dr Raj Kumar Maharajah reminded all Malaysians that the SARS-CoV-2 virus was still active during the Christmas celebration.
“The rakyat must continue to observe all the SOPs and be responsible.
“They must play their part to curb the spread of the infection.
“We hope and pray that the arrival of the vaccine will give us more freedom to move around and reduce the risk of transmissions.”
Malaysian Public Health Physicians’ Association president Datuk Dr Zainal Ariffin Omar said Malaysians could still observe the holiday but under new norms.
“For instance, if we are from the red zones, we are discouraged from visiting our family members, relatives and friends from other zones.
“This is especially the case for families that have high risk groups such as the elderly, ” he said.
He also urged a reduction in the number of people visiting homes especially those coming from other zones.
“We hope people can reduce physical interactions and limit visitors to those who we know, ” he said.
He also reminded the public to wash their hands regularly, wear their face masks and practise physical distancing.
In the last three months following the Sabah state election, the country has been going through a third wave of Covid-19 infections, with several days registering over 2,000 new cases.
After Sabah, Selangor has in recent days been recording a high number of infections, especially among migrant workers in factories.
With cases soaring in Selangor for eight days in a row, Health director-general Tan Sri Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah has also cautioned residents of the state not to go out unnecessarily during this period to stem the spread of Covid-19.
Many churches in the Klang Valley have had to hold masses and religious services online after it was put under the conditional MCO, which is scheduled to end on Dec 31.
With yesterday’s 1,581 cases, the country has recorded 100,318 confirmed cases since the start of the pandemic.