Malaysians Blast ‘Baffling’ Chinese New Year Protocols

Malaysia’s Covid-19 protocols for Chinese New Year celebrations amid a lockdown to contain the pandemic has attracted criticism and jokes online -- even from within the ruling government.

The standard operating procedures announced on Thursday limit the traditional Chinese New Year reunion dinner and visits to “families living within the same house”. Malaysians quickly took to social media to point out that the protocols didn’t sound any different from their current daily lives.

The rules were introduced even as Malaysia allowed more businesses, including hair salons and night markets, to resume operations, and some states to reopen mosques at half capacity for Friday prayers. A snapshot of different night markets to visit on the first eight days of the Chinese New Year have begun spreading on social media.

The Chinese are Malaysia’s largest ethnic minority, accounting for a little over 20% of the nation’s 32 million people. The Lunar New Year is one of Malaysia’s biggest holidays and marks a time for traditional family reunion dinners on the eve that typically comes with big feasts. To many Chinese, it’s also the most important meal together as a family.

“People are angry because of how baffling the SOP is,” wrote one Twitter user in a thread. “We cannot visit our parents etc even if they stay within a 10 kilometer radius, but we probably can meet at the nearest night market and it wouldn’t be breaching the SOP.”

Malaysia Deputy National Minister Ti Lian Ker shared the new rules on his Facebook with the caption: “Someone has made a mistake here. This SOP must be quickly withdrawn and rectified!”

The National Unity Ministry on Friday said it took note of the views and appeals from the Chinese community and would raise the issue with the National Security Council. The protocols were drawn up after discussions with 21 Chinese-based organizations and religious bodies, the ministry added.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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