Former minister P Waythamoorthy has urged Hindus to rethink the way they will celebrate Thaipusam on Jan 18, citing concerns over the highly-transmissible Omicron variant of COVID-19.

In a statement posted on his official Facebook page last night, the Malaysian Advancement Party president said it is best to allow the government, and the Health Ministry to decide on the best way to prevent a "Thaipusam cluster" from taking root in the country.

Waythamoorthy noted that little data on Omicron was available at the time when National Unity Minister Halimah Mohamed Sadique announced restrictions to the religious festival, back in early December, and received backlash from the Hindu community.

However, the strain has since been proven to be extremely communicable, and thus, could pose a danger to the country, he said.

"On Dec 1, 2021, the US reported its first case of Omicron. By Jan 1, 2022, 73 per cent, or 365,000 of its new infections were confirmed to be of the Omicron variant.

"According to Dr Michael Osterholm, an infectious disease expert at University of Minnesota, the number of cases in the US is likely to rise dramatically," noted Waythamoorthy.

If the US can be overwhelmed by the Omicron strain, a similar scenario can also happen here if Malaysians are not careful, he added.

"I therefore, appeal to all Hindus to ponder over the medical hazard COVID-19 and the Omicron variant can have on Malaysians and rethink about the Thaipusam gathering.

"Five weeks ago, we did not have the full data and effects of this variant, but it is now before us, very clearly. I appeal to all Hindus to allow the Health Ministry and teh government to decide on the best way to prevent a possible "Thaipusam cluster"," Waythamoorthy pleaded.

"We have suffered enough over the past two years, and let us not risk ourselves and others further."

Since being reported to the World Health Organization in mid-November, the Omicron strain has swept across the US, Europe, and Scandinavian countries.

In Malaysia, 122 cases of the variant have been reported so far.

Although data has so far shown that the variant carries milder symptoms than the previous deadly Delta strain, some experts have warned that a "mild" virus in large numbers can still overwhelm a public health system.

Photo source: BBC