KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 14 — The government is still fine-tuning the standard operating procedures (SOP) for Christmas and Thaipusam by taking into account the safety and health of the people as well as the spread of the COVID-19 Omicron variant.

COVID-19 Ministerial Quartet Meeting chairman Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein said the focus for the Christmas celebration is on SOP statistics for prayer ceremonies, visits to family homes, live performances, house-to-house caroling and Christmas sale stalls.

As for Thaipusam celebration, he said that, through discussions with Human Resources Minister (MOHR) Datuk Seri M Saravanan, the focus is given on the SOP statistics for prayer at temples.

Also being given focus 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 Ministry of Health (MOH), Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), Ministry of National Unity (MNU) 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, who is also Senior Defence Minister said at the quartet meeting held today, Minister of National Unity (MNU) Datuk Halimah Mohamed Sadique and Datuk Seri M Saravanan were invited to sit at the same table with MOH and stakeholders to co-ordinate the SOP for the two festivities.

In this regard, he urged the public to comply with every SOP which will be announced by MNU soon in a disciplined and responsible manner in line with the aim of the government through the Reopening Safely efforts.

Meanwhile, Hishammuddin also said that Saravanan had been asked to clarify the actual situation on the SOP for the entry of foreign workers and subsequently suggest a suitable approach to tackle the situation during the quartet meeting today.

“It is important for me to stress that the focus on the part of the quartet meeting is only on improvements from the angle of pre-release, on arrival, post-arrival (quarantine period) and post quarantine. 

“Determining the number of entries of foreign workers is not under the jurisdiction of the quartet meeting but it is under MOHR and the Home Ministry,” he said.

Hishammuddin said the new SOPs are also ready and coordinated but a lot depended on the quota approved by the Joint Home Ministry and MOHR Committee on the Management of Foreign Workers.

He said the Cabinet which met on Dec 10 had asked the quartet ministers to fine-tune a safe method to bring in more foreign workers.

Hishammuddin said it took into consideration many flexibilities which had been given to the economic sector since several months ago but some entrepreneurs experienced difficulties to revive their businesses due to lack of workers as the SOP on the entry of foreign workers was rather stringent.

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

“We will fine-tune it (SOP proposal) in the coming meeting,” he told a media conference after attending a Persons with Disabilities (PwD) Career Carnival at the World Trade Centre Kuala Lumpur (WTC KL) here today.

Saravanan, who is also MIC deputy president, said all strata 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 were not allowed due to the new Omicron variant, but after receiving brickbats from various quarters, MNU issued a statement that the COVID-19 SOP for the celebration had not been finalised.


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