Qing Ming is a special time for the Chinese. It’s a day set aside to remember their ancestors and to tidy up their grave sites.
As always however, Covid-19 will be making the experience a little different. This year’s Qing Ming will be following standard operating procedures (SOPs) set by the government.
The Ministry of National Unity (KPN) said in a statement that the festival is permitted in all states, but prayers at cemeteries and columbariums must follow strict SOPs. These SOPs were decided after considering the views of the National Security Council (MKN), the Ministry of Health (MOH), the Chinese Cemetery Management Association, and other religious groups. The SOPs will be in effect starting 20th March until 18th April; 14 days before and after the actual date of the festival, which falls on 4th April this year.
The SOPs differ depending on the area and whether the rituals are at a cemetery or a columbarium. For areas under the Movement Control Order (MCO), not more than six people are allowed to be at cemeteries at any given time and each session is only for 90 minutes. As for columbariums in MCO areas, only 10 people are allowed at any one time.
For states under the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), only 50% of the cemeteries or columbariums can be filled to ensure physical distancing. As for states under the Recovery Movement Control Order (RMCO), the number of visitors depends on the capacity of the columbarium and physical distancing must be practised at all times.
Prayers at cemeteries and columbariums are only permitted between 5am to 6pm, regardless of the areas. For columbariums, each session only has 60 minutes and between sessions, the area will be sanitised for 30 minutes. Interstate travel is still not allowed for the festival.
According to the MOH website, only a few areas in Sabah are still under MCO. Bernama reported that Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Johor, Penang, Kelantan, and Sarawak are currently under CMCO. Perlis, Melaka, Pahang, Terengganu, Sabah, Putrajaya, and Labuan are under RMCO. Starting 19th March, Kedah, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan will also be under RMCO. However, Kuala Muda and Kulim in Kedah will still be under CMCO. The Star also reported on 15th March that MCO will be extended in Nabawan, Sabah for two weeks, beginning 17th March.
Although most areas are under CMCO and RMCO, please do take care to follow all SOPs when outside. Stay safe!