GEORGE TOWN: All Chinese cemeteries in Penang operated by 18 associations will not be open for the Qing Ming festival this year.
The associations who own most of the cemetery grounds in the state, came to the agreement following a meeting at the United Hokkien Cemeteries' office in Batu Gantung on Saturday (March 20).
Penang United Chinese Charitable Cemeteries Association president Ong Teik Kim said the decision was made in view of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, adding that it was almost an impossible task for operators to ensure full standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance.
"With between 100 and 200 Covid-19 cases recorded daily in Penang, we are still at risk and have yet to overcome the pandemic.
"We are mainly concerned with the safety of the people and vast areas of cemeteries here are hard to monitor.
"Most of the areas have no fence around their perimeter and it is difficult to implement entry points for visitors," he said during a press conference after the meeting.
Ong added that the associations overseeing the cemeteries will not be held responsible if visitors were still stubborn and fined for violating SOPs at the sites.
Ong, who is also United Hokkien Cemeteries president, said the association currently oversees five cemeteries on the island with covering an area of more than 210ha.
Among them are cemeteries in Batu Gantung, Paya Terubong and Teluk Bahang.
Penang Social Development and Non-Islamic Religious Affairs Committee chairman Chong Eng who was present said the state supports their decision and understands that it would be a costly and difficult task to secure the cemetery perimeter within a short period of time.
"I urge everybody to cooperate and understand the difficult decision made.
"What if a new cluster emerges?
"Perhaps some prayers can be done from home and family can return next year, hopefully by then the pandemic is over," she said.
The cemetery in Mount Erskine operated by the Kwangtung and Tengchow Association is about 110ha in size while the cemetery in Berapit and Penanti, Bukit Mertajam operated by Hock Teik Cheng Sin Temple is about 80ha.