PETALING JAYA: Chinese groups are relieved with the revised Covid-19 standard operating procedure that will allow up to 15 family members within a 10km radius to attend the traditionally important reunion dinner on the eve of the Lunar New Year.
Describing it as a positive way forward ahead of the festive celebration, Malaysian Han Cultural Association president Datuk Goh Hin San said the revised SOP showed that the government listened to the voices on the ground.
“We suggested for 20 people to be allowed for the reunion dinner as well as for Chap Goh Meh.
“The government has now allowed 15 people but it’s not the number (that matters). This (announcement) is a positive way forward. It shows that the government is listening to the rakyat, ” he said.
He urged the rakyat to also play their part, adding that the community was aware of its responsibilities to help bring down the number of Covid-19 cases.
“We hope the people will not misunderstand the Chinese community. We are not demanding or pressuring the government, ” he said.
The revision to the SOP comes following calls by MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong and Chinese groups after the first one limited the reunion dinner to only family members living in the same house.
Prayers at temples were also not allowed, except for five temple committee members.
Also welcoming the revised SOP, Federation of Taoist Associations Malaysia president Tan Hoe Chieow said it appreciated the government’s decision to allow the opening of temples for prayers on Feb 11,12 and 19, subject to a maximum of 30 devotees at any one time.
“The requirement for periodic sanitisation to be conducted at the temple premises is also fair, ” said Tan, who is also Malaysian Consultative Council of Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism and Taoism vice-president.
However, he called on the government to also allow temples to open on Feb 20 instead of Feb 19 as this was the actual day of the celebration for the Jade Emperor’s (or Tian Gong) birthday.
“I’d like to bring to the attention of the government that Taoists pray to the Jade Emperor or perform Bai Tian Gong from homes on the eve of the ninth day on Feb 19, starting from 11pm.
“Then, they will go to the temples to pray on the actual ninth day on Feb 20. We are thankful that the government did it right by allowing prayers at home on the eve.
“I hope the government can change from Feb 19 to Feb 20 for prayers at the temple, ” he said.
Tan said it was inappropriate to only limit Bai Tian Gong to Hokkiens as others in the Chinese community also take part in the annual tradition.
Klang MCA Youth chief Datuk BK Tan said family members living in the same area could now gather and enjoy the reunion dinner together.
“Generally, modern families are not very big and an extended family comprises 15 people. So, the decision is welcomed, ” he said, adding that the revised SOP showed the government took into consideration the views and pleas of the community.
“I hope everyone will ensure they do not breach the CNY SOP, ” he said.
Christine Lai, who lives in USJ, Subang Jaya, is relieved that she would not need to spend CNY alone.
“I usually have the reunion dinner at my brother’s place, where my mother lives, in Petaling Jaya.
“I thought I would have to have a lonely Chinese New Year but luckily, the revised SOP will allow me to be with my family, ” said 59-year-old Lai.
Suzan Kuah, 57, said it was a good move by the government to revise the SOP for Chinese New Year.
“I am happy that I can be with my parents to celebrate the festival because we are living within 10km of each other, ” said Kuah.
Disability Equality Training facilitator Peter Tan, 53, said the new SOP was more realistic.
“If we choose to, we can now celebrate this auspicious occasion with our parents and siblings.
“Having said that, we still need to strictly practise wearing masks, washing our hands regularly and observing physical distancing, ” he said.