BEIJING (CHINA DAILY/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The Ministry of Civil Affairs held a meeting on Monday (Mar 23) to tell local authorities to suspend group tomb-sweeping activities during this year's Qingming Festival in order to prevent the novel coronavirus from spreading.
Qingming Festival, during which people pay their respects to their forefathers by visiting their graves, is of great significance to Chinese people.
But this year the festival, which falls on April 4, comes at a crucial stage in the fight against the novel coronavirus outbreak and the restarting of industrial production.
Although the outbreak has largely been contained and all walks of life are returning to normal, it is still necessary to avoid large-scale gatherings to stop the virus from returning.
Many local governments have therefore announced strict restrictions on tomb-sweeping activities this year, with the Tianjin authorities deciding on March 1 to suspend them; and cemeteries in Wuxi, Jiangsu province, letting their own staff carry out the tomb-sweeping activities for people.
Although the virus has largely been controlled, there is still a risk of it spreading from the ever-increasing imported cases. That is why epidemic prevention and control measures cannot be relaxed yet.
However, the restrictions have given rise to alternatives, with many organisations launching "cloud tomb-sweeping" services to let the people fulfil their traditional obligations without touching anybody.
The Guangdong Civil Affairs Bureau has launched a "cloud tomb-sweeping" service on the province's e-government platform on WeChat.
On March 12, leading funeral and interment service provider Fu Shou Yuan International Group launched a "cloud tomb-sweeping" service at its branches in more than 30 cities. In the week since becoming operational, its cloud tomb-sweeping platform has had more than 87,000 visitors.
Such online tomb-sweeping services, which can stop the virus from spreading while also meeting the public demand during Qingming Festival, should be encouraged nationwide. In fact, such an environment-friendly method should be promoted even after the epidemic is fully contained to give rise to a new green culture in China.
The writer is a columnist with the paper. China Daily is a member of The Straits Times media partner Asia News Network, an alliance of 24 news media organisations.