KUALA LUMPUR: The National Security Council technical meeting agreed to permit religious activities at houses of worship on Feb 11,12 and 19 during Chinese New Year, says the National Unity Ministry.
It said this is part of the revised standard operating procedure (SOP) following the meeting chaired by Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob on Sunday (Feb 7).
The revised SOP also allowed family reunion dinners which would be limited to 15 members living within a 10km radius and must not involve interstate or inter-district travel.
"The number of worshippers must not exceed 30 people at any one time and they must also wear face masks and maintain physical distancing.
"The duration for prayers is 30 minutes, which will be followed by sanitisation for 30 minutes before the next prayer time.
"The prayer time will start from 6am until 2pm.
"Prayer activities on Feb 19 are permitted at the compound of each other's homes during the night based on the tradition of the Chinese New Year for the Hokkien clan," the ministry said in a statement.
Feb 19 this year is the ninth day of the new lunar month and is known as the Hokkien New Year or the Jade Emperor's birthday.
The National Unity Ministry's officers will be tasked with monitoring SOP compliance.
National Unity Minister Datuk Halimah Sadique urged the Chinese community in Malaysia to celebrate in the new normal and always adhere to the set SOP.
"They are also urged to maintain good hygiene and ensure physical distancing to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the country," she said.
On Thursday (Feb 4), the government had announced that only those living under the same roof could be present for the reunion dinner and prayers.
This caused an uproar within the Chinese community, especially among those whose family members live nearby.
Additionally, prayers at temples are not allowed except for five of the temple's committee members while lion dances, lantern processions, Chingay and other stage performances are prohibited, as is cross-border travel.
Ismail Sabri subsequently said he was puzzled by the criticism over the SOP, and claimed discussions were held with several religious and cultural bodies.
However, groups which attended the meetings said they were not told of the eventual decision and were there only to give their views.
They had said that they were caught off-guard with the SOP that was announced.
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