PETALING JAYA: General standard operating procedures (SOPs) for Chinese New Year have been drawn up, but these will likely be tweaked to take into account varying conditions on the ground, says Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri.
The basic SOPs that the National Security Council (NSC) has come up with would likely see a cap of 20 people being allowed at reunion dinners and no interstate travel, said sources.
When contacted, Ismail said he cannot confirm anything for now as the NSC is still fine-tuning the SOPs before they are officially announced to the public.
Ismail, also the Defence Minister, said that the SOPs will be further tailored for different areas, depending on the type of movement control order the location is under at that point of time.
“We are currently in the process of designing and finetuning the SOPs that will be put into place for Chinese New Year celebrations.
“These SOPs will depend on the situation at that point of time on Feb 12, the date of the festival, and as to whether the place in question is under the MCO or conditional MCO or any other (movement restriction), ” he said.
Ismail added that the SOPs will adhere to the strict advice of the Health Ministry and the NSC will announce them at least one week prior to the celebrations to ensure the people can make their preparations.
In Malaysia, the Chinese community will be celebrating the Lunar New Year beginning Feb 12.
Sources within the Cabinet said that there has been much discussion on Chinese New Year SOPs, especially for the traditional reunion dinner on the eve of the festival.
“The reunion dinner is very important for the Chinese and as much as possible, the government does not want to be seen to be dampening the spirit of the celebration.
“However, it was argued that there must be strict SOPs as some family reunions can be really big and would definitely involve the elderly, which are a high-risk group.
“On bookings of reunion dinners in restaurants, as dine-ins are not currently allowed, it is most likely a no-go.
“Also, there were discussions on whether to allow travel but as the number of cases is still high, it was not a popular suggestion, ” said one source.
Another source said that the NSC might cap the number of people at reunion dinners to 20 in a family with strict physical distancing and other basic SOPs.
“There were some voices from the authorities asking for a lower number, fearing that reunion dinners may create new community clusters.
“It is most likely that the previous SOPs used last year during the height of the first wave for Hari Raya Puasa may be customised for the Chinese New Year celebrations this year, ” said the source.
Last May, while the country was under the conditional MCO, Muslims were allowed to congregate in groups of up to 20 close family members (based on the space of the house) on the first day of the festival with strict SOPs put in place.
No interstate travel was allowed, while Muslims were told not to shake hands and also advised against visiting the elderly or sick.
In neighbouring Singapore, the authorities issued strict SOPs yesterday for the Chinese New Year festival, from household visitors right to details such as how to shout out good wishes while tossing yee sang.
“Wear a mask if you are not eating or drinking. This means that masks must be worn during the tossing of yu sheng (Mandarin for “yee sang”).
“Avoid raising voices at all times. Lohei (good wishes) should be done without saying the usual auspicious phrases.
“There must not be multiple table bookings unless you are from the same household. But even so, there should not be inter-mingling across tables.
“If you are making house visits, limit your visits to family and to not more than two households per day.
“Otherwise, connect digitally with your family and friends, ” said the Singapore government on its official website.