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Govt fine-tuning SOPs for Christmas, Thaipusam

Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein says the SOPs will be announced by the national unity ministry soon.

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A woman poses for a picture at a replica of an ice tunnel amid other Christmas decorations at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur.
A woman poses for a picture at a replica of an ice tunnel amid other Christmas decorations at a shopping mall in Kuala Lumpur.

The government is still fine-tuning the SOPs for Christmas and Thaipusam, taking into account the safety and health of the people as well as the spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said today.

Hishammuddin, who chaired a Covid-19 Ministerial Quartet meeting today, said the focus for Christmas celebrations is on SOP statistics for prayer ceremonies, visits to family homes, live performances, house-to-house carolling and Christmas sale stalls.

As for Thaipusam, he said through discussions with Human Resources Minister M Saravanan, the focus is on the SOP statistics for prayer at temples.

Also under scrutiny are the chariot journey and movements, carrying of kavadi and Paal koodam or milk pots, shaving hair, ritual ceremony (bathing) in the river and the opening of sale stalls.

“The health ministry, police, national unity ministry and temple representatives will go down to the ground to scrutinise the space capacity, logistical requirements and stopping spots along the journey and the movement of the chariot,” he said in a statement today.

“It is important to understand that in deciding every SOP, the priority of the government is the safety and health of the people, especially taking into account the current spread of the Omicron variant worldwide.

“I also understand that at the end of the year like now, many will return to their villages and go on holiday with their families.

“Please ensure the face mask is worn, avoid congested places, get booster shots if eligible, perform Covid-19 tests periodically, and most importantly, practise TRIIS,” he said.

Hishammuddin said at the quartet meeting today, National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique and Saravanan were invited to sit at the same table with health ministry representatives and and stakeholders to coordinate the SOPs for the two celebrations.

He urged the public to comply with each SOP to be announced by the national unity ministry soon in a disciplined and responsible manner, in line with the aim of the government through the reopening safely efforts.

Meanwhile, Saravanan said in principle, the government and the National Security Council (NSC) had agreed on holding Thaipusam celebrations and the chariot procession since it was a religious festival, but that several proposals were put up to control the spread of Covid-19.

“We will fine-tune it (the SOP proposal) in the coming meeting,” he told a media conference after attending an event at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur today.

Saravanan, who is also MIC deputy president, said all segments of society including Hindus must be responsible for shouldering the burden together to combat Covid-19 when celebrating the religious festival.

On Dec 7, the government said all Thaipusam processions would not be allowed due to the new Omicron variant. After receiving brickbats from various quarters, though, the national unity ministry issued a statement saying that the Covid-19 SOPs for the celebration had not been finalised.