Malaysia Eases Chinese New Year Restrictions

Authorities have reversed course on tighter rules that would have banned house-to-house visits.

A tourist at Thean Hou Temple in Kuala Lumpur. (Photo: BRDNK Vision/Unsplash)

After a backlash from the Malaysian Chinese community, senior government officials have scaled back coronavirus curbs to allow larger family gatherings and temple visits by the general public over the upcoming holiday. Reunion dinners held on Chinese New Year’s Eve (February 11) can now host up to 15 close relatives living within a radius of 10 kilometers of the venue, so long as they do not cross district or state boundaries for the event. Only Sarawak is exempt from Malaysia’s ongoing Movement Control Order (MCO), which bans interstate and inter-district travel.

Temples will now be open for Chinese New Year prayers on February 11, 12, and 19, and with no more than 30 worshippers allowed at any one time. Social distancing must be observed and face masks worn by all individuals present. Temple visits can happen from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., but each session is limited to just 30 minutes.

Last Thursday, Malaysia’s Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob outlined harsh restrictions for Chinese New Year aimed at limiting the potential spread of Covid-19, with reunion dinners restricted to members of the same household and house-to-house visits banned during the festive period. He added that prayers at temples could only be conducted by five members from each temple’s management committee.

Those stringent guidelines drew widespread criticism, especially since they were announced at the same time as a new rule permitting hair salons, car-washing venues, and night markets to resume operations from February 5. As Malaysia is still battling a surge of coronavirus cases, the near-nationwide MCO has been extended until February 18.

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