Bigger gatherings in S’wak

KUCHING: Up to 20 family members are allowed to attend the Chinese New Year’s eve reunion dinner in Sarawak, which has its own standard operating procedure for the festival.

Under the guidelines issued by the state disaster management committee, the reunion dinner can only be held at home with appropriate physical distancing, and not at hotels or restaurants.

Community leader Datuk Richard Wee said Chinese associations in the state were making arrangements to adhere to the guidelines.

“For individual families, the feedback I received is that they are also planning to follow the SOP, ” he said.

For other states, the Federal Government on Sunday allowed 15 family members within a 10km radius to attend the reunion dinner after earlier limiting it to those in the same household.

Wee said Sarawak’s Unit for Other Religions (Unifor) had engaged with Chinese associations to get feedback in formulating the SOP for temple activities and festive celebrations.

“We have worked well together and Unifor has been willing to listen to our views.

“I think consultation between parties is important to achieve acceptability by all instead of issuing instructions without discussions with the relevant bodies, ” he added.

Sarawak’s Chinese New Year SOP also limits the celebration to the first day only with a maximum of 20 family members allowed at one time. They must have their temperature checked and register their details for contact tracing purposes.

Open houses, house-to-house visits and lion or dragon dances are among the prohibited activities.

Prayers at temples are only allowed for committee members on the first day of Chinese New Year, limited to 12 people subject to the size of the temple.

NGO volunteer Andrew Chioh said he would celebrate with his immediate family members only this year in compliance with the SOP.

“We have informed all our relatives that we will not visit them due to the current situation.

“I believe lives matter more than tradition because without lives, there wouldn’t be any tradition, ” he said.

He added that it was not an issue to follow the SOP as it was meant for the good of all.

Lawyer Voon Shiak Ni also said she would usher in the new year with her immediate family only.

“There will be less than 10 of us at the reunion dinner because where there is a crowd, the risk of contact increases, ” she said.

Voon called on everyone to take the Covid-19 pandemic seriously and adhere to the SOP in order to break the chain of transmission.

“A 20-person limit on the reunion dinner is reasonable. Keeping records of visitors can be seen as a hassle but it is for our own good.

“The SOP might seem troublesome but what can we do better to battle the pandemic? Only with a strong, concerted effort from the community can we win the battle, ” she said.

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