Penang Hindu temples urged to postpone gatherings, services

Prayers being conducted at a temple in Bukit Tengah last week. The Penang Hindu Endowments Board has called for religious gatherings and services to be suspended. (PHEB pic)

PETALING JAYA: Hindu temples in Penang have been urged to avoid organising large gatherings and religious services or postpone them. The call comes in the wake of reports about some 30,000 devotees attending a seaside religious festival last week.

“Some people are taking it easy and downplaying the risk to society” from the Covid-19 outbreak, the Penang Hindu Endowment Board said today.

Its executive director, M Ramachandran, urged the Hindu community to take immediate steps to overcome the spread of the infectious disease.

A total of 428 cases have been reported so far, with 190 new Covid-19 cases reported up to noon today, most of them from those who attended a mass tabligh (missionary) gathering in Sri Petaling, Kuala Lumpur.

Ramachandran said a moratorium on Hindu gatherings and services in Penang should be carried out to help control the spread of Covid-19 infections.

He urged temples to advise devotees to avoid shaking hands, to wash their hands frequently, not attend any gatherings or religious services attended by large numbers of people.

The health ministry has previously advised the public to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people.

On Friday, The Star reported that thousands of devotees thronged the beach at Teluk Bahang in Penang, for the Masi Magam Theppa Thirunal (floating chariot festival, where hundreds of miniature chariots were set afloat).

Ramasamy was quoted by Malaysiakini earlier today as saying that the event had been held on March 8, before the World Health Organisation declared Covid-19 a pandemic.

He also dismissed the attendance figure of 30,000 at the festival, calling it an exaggeration.