The government has decided to not allow Thaipusam processions next month, amid the COVID-19 Omicron variant threat.

National Unity Minister Halimah Sadique told the Dewan Rakyat that her ministry has also prepared a list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the festival, which falls on Jan 18.

"We cannot allow the chariot procession to take place, in light of the new COVID-19 variant," news portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) quoted her saying, adding that the decision was made after consulting various stakeholders earlier this month.

These included Hindu leaders from Penang, Kedah, Selangor, and Johor, where Thaipusam is celebrated in a grand manner annually, as well as officers from the Health Ministry and National Security Council (NSC).

Halimah was answering a question from Batu Gajah MP V. Sivakumar, who had asked about the SOPs for Thaipusam.

According to her, a meeting on the proposed SOPs for the festival will be held from Dec 13 to 15, and among the issues that would be discussed include the opening of stalls. 2

Meanwhile, Astro Awani reported Halimah saying that 'kaavadi' carrying and river-bathing ritual in groups would also be prohibited during Thaipusam next month.

"Once the details are ironed out during the three-day meeting, the SOPs will be released to the relevant religious leaders, and a press statement will be released," she reportedly said.

Halimah added that the SOPs for the upcoming Christmas celebrations would also be held soon.

It was recently reported that Thaipusam celebrations in Penang, including the Golden Chariot and kavadi processions, will resume on January 18, after a one-year-break due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr. P. Ramasamy, the chairman of the Penang Hindu Endowments Board (PHEB), has assured that Thaipusam 2022 will be held under stringent restrictions and strict adherence to SOPs.

Chariot processions proceeded in both Kuala Lumpur and Penang for Thaipusam 2021 but they were subject to strict SOPs, including having only 10 devotees accompany the chariot.

Source: FMT, Astro Awani
Photo source: Astro Awani