The Malaysian government yesterday revised its Chinese New Year health protocols to allow up to 15 people to attend the reunion dinner, following a barrage of criticism from Chinese groups and politicians.
The National Unity Ministry revealed new standard operating procedures (SOPs) just days ahead of the festivities. The previous SOPs restricted reunion dinners to only members of the same household.
Malaysia is currently under movement controls that limit travel and large gatherings as it tackles rising Covid-19 infections that have strained its healthcare system.
The new SOPs allow up to 15 family members to gather for a reunion dinner, but they must live within a 10km radius of the venue.
The ministry also said in its statement that Chinese New Year prayers will now be allowed at temples this Thursday, Friday and on Feb 19, with a maximum of 30 individuals able to be present at any given time.
"Unity Ministry officials have been appointed as supervising officers under the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases Act 1988 and will monitor the compliance of the SOPs," the ministry said.
Last Thursday, Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob said reunion dinners were allowed only among "members of the same household" and that no visitors were allowed for Chinese New Year. Temple prayers were forbidden and only temple committee members could be on temple premises.
The rules, which coincided with the government saying it would reopen hair salons and night markets despite extending the nationwide movement control order (MCO) for another two weeks, were roundly criticised. Malaysians mocked the restrictions against house gatherings while night markets were allowed to reopen.
The Malaysian Chinese Association weighed in on the criticism, saying the restrictions appeared unduly harsh and should be reviewed.
Malaysia has been under the MCO, which bars inter-district and inter-state travel, since Jan 13 as the country battles a worsening third wave of the pandemic.
Unlike last year's MCO, which was a near total lockdown, the government has allowed several sectors of the economy to stay open, such as the manufacturing, palm oil and construction sectors.
Malaysia recorded 3,731 cases yesterday, with another 15 deaths.
The country now has a total of 242,452 cases, with 872 deaths. It currently has 51,241 active cases.
Malaysia has also been put under a state of emergency, from Jan 11 till Aug 1, to battle the pandemic.