Churches, temples can open at 1/3 capacity

Worshippers observe social distancing measures at a temple.

PUTRAJAYA: The government has agreed to loosen restrictions for non-Muslim houses of worship, Senior Minister for Security Ismail Sabri Yaakob announced today.

At his daily press briefing here, he said houses of worship could operate as they had before the movement control order (MCO) was imposed, but at one-third of their normal capacities.

He added that this was still subject to approval by state governments, which might choose to adjust the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

“The national unity ministry has held discussions with 16 religious bodies and associations and has requested that non-Muslim houses of worship be allowed to operate.

“Today’s meeting agreed to allow some 5,230 houses of worship across the country to operate,” he said.

Previously, only 174 non-Muslim houses of worship in green zones were allowed to operate, with only 30 people allowed on premises at a time.

According to the SOPs released by the national unity ministry, only houses of worship in red zones will not be allowed to operate.

While operational hours may return to normal with measures like social distancing in place, activities such as religious feasts and processions are still banned.

The rest of the guidelines will be issued by the respective state governments.

Ismail also said Putrajaya had decided to allow all mosques and suraus in federal territories to operate at one-third of their normal capacities, as long as they are not located in red zones.

He said checks by the authorities over the past few days had found that SOP compliance in mosques was high.

Mosques and suraus in other states are still subject to the decisions of their respective religious authorities.

Ismail said 63 individuals have been arrested for breaching the recovery MCO (RMCO), including 44 people who were detained at pubs and nightclubs.

Twelve individuals were also detained for visiting reflexology and massage centres, while seven others were caught doing activities that did not allow social distancing.

Of the 63, 49 were remanded and 14 were fined.

Ismail also announced that Malaysians returning from abroad could choose to get tested for Covid-19 overseas before returning if they did not want to be tested upon arrival and wait for their results.

“They must be screened three days before their flight back and they must show a letter certifying that they have tested negative. They still have to conduct the mandatory self-quarantine in their respective homes,” he said.

He said this would prevent long wait times should there be many citizens returning at a time.

He also said those who choose to be tested upon arrival could be made to spend the night in a quarantine centre if their test results cannot be released on the same day.

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