The National Unity Ministry has allowed temples to be open for the Indian New Year celebrations, as well as for the Chitra Pournami festival later this month, subject to strict standard operating procedures (SOPs).

This was stated in a letter by minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique to Malaysia Hindu Sangam president R. S Mohan Shan recently, cited by Astro Ulagam.

The letter stated that the approval will apply to temples in areas under both the Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), and Recovery MCO (RMCO), for the Telugu New Year (Ugadhi) which falls today, Chittirai Puthandu tomorrow, and the Chitra Pournami, which falls on April 26.

For Ugadhi, temples can operate from 6am to 2pm, and then from 4pm to 10pm. The same timing will apply for the Chittirai Puthandu, and Chitra Pournami as well.

According to a guideline by the minister attached together with Halimah's letter, the number of devotees at temples under CMCO areas cannot exceed half the capacity of the temple at any given time, and this is subject further to the discretion of the Federal Territories Ministry, for houses of worship under its jurisdiction.

Temples under RMCO areas will be allowed to accommodate devotees according to the size of the temple, provided physical distancing rules are followed.

There were also an additional set of guidelines attached, which applies to temples under both the CMCO and RMCO areas.

This includes temples sanitising their premises before and after every prayer session, and recording visitors' particulars and screening them for symptoms, including cough, fever, and flu, before entering.

"For areas with good internet connection, devotees must check in via MySejahtera, while in other areas, the temple management must provide a book where the devotees can write their names and contact numbers.

"The management must also provide hand sanitizers and ensure no crowding takes place at any time. Dining-in is prohibited and food must be packed to be given to devotees," said the guidelines.

Devotees must wear face masks at all times, and those aged above 60 and below 12 are not encouraged to attend the prayer sessions, it added, to minimize the risk of COVID-19 spread.

Photo source: The Star