Planning to sweep tombs this Qing Ming? At some cemeteries, new rules in place to keep Covid-19 at bay

Kenneth Tee
·4-min read
A man cleans the tombstone of a relative at Kwong Tong Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. — File picture by Choo Choy May
A man cleans the tombstone of a relative at Kwong Tong Cemetery in Kuala Lumpur. — File picture by Choo Choy May

KUALA LUMPUR, March 13 ― With the Covid-19 pandemic showing no signs of abating, bereavement care and memorialisation services are taking added precautions in anticipation of high-risk crowds during the tomb-sweeping day known in Chinese as Qing Ming next month.

For bereavement care services Xiao En Group, visitors are encouraged to pre-book an appointment at least three days in advance from the date of their intended prayers.

This follows adjustments made to operations of the Xiao En Memorial Park in Nilai, Negri Sembilan, to limit visits in light of the ongoing pandemic and standard operating procedures (SOP) under the conditional movement control order (CMCO).

It added that tomb visits will only be limited to one vehicle per booking and a maximum of two hours is imposed for prayer services.

“Xiao En Group urges family members who need to visit Xiao En Memorial Park for tomb-sweeping to make an appointment in advance.

“Xiao En Group also urges everyone to abide by the instructions of the National Security Council at all times, as it is a public responsibility to combat the epidemic,” it said in a statement this week.

Subject to future announcements by the government, Xiao En also advised those who wished to travel interstate to obtain police permission to avoid any inconvenience on prayer day.

Apart from pre-bookings, Xiao En said its temple in the memorial park will be closed to the public during the period to limit the number of visitors.

Instead, family members may opt for Xiao En’s Qing Ming Remembrance Service that would be held at the temple on Qingming Day itself which falls on April 4.

As for the aforementioned prayer services offered, families can either choose one of the two packages: Tribute & Blessing Services or Da Bo Gong Prayer On Behalf Service .

Those requiring further information may visit Xiao En's official website, the official Xiao En Facebook page or contact the care hotline 1800-888-333.

Separately, Kwong Tong Cemetery Management Kuala Lumpur deputy chairman Lee Chun Kong said each family will be limited to four people per prayer session, which will also be kept between 30 minutes and an hour depending on the prayer location.

He also said members of the public will not be allowed to enter the pagodas and columbarium complex onsite, with only one person allowed to light joss sticks outside the compound that would be collected by onsite staff to be placed inside.

All of the above precautionary measures are in addition to existing SOP such as mandatory MySejahtera check-ins, temperature screening and mask-wearing including physical distancing of one metre between individuals, Lee said.

Lee also urged visitors to keep their prayer services as simple as possible with reduced offerings and clear after themselves before departing.

“At times of pandemic, we are appealing to those under 12 years old and elders above 70 including those with moving difficulties to remain at home.

“We would also like to encourage the public to make simple offerings instead which does not affect one’s displays of filial piety and subsequently reduce the time spent loitering outdoors and infection risks since public health is our main concern,” he said in a statement.

To further reduce visits and avoid peak hours, Lee also appealed to members of the public to opt for weekday visits instead of the weekends.

“We hope those who do visit will cooperate with the onsite staff and ensure a smooth, successful Qingming festival for all,” he added.

Like elsewhere in the world, Qing Ming holds special importance for the Chinese community in Malaysia as families gather at the graves of their ancestors to honour them, as well as expressing one's thoughts and respect for their deceased relatives.

It is observed on the 15th day of the Spring Equinox, which is typically between April 4 and 6 each year. For 2021, Qing Ming is on April 4.

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