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Immortal protection: COVID-themed offerings for Malaysia ‘Tomb Sweeping Day’

Photo shows a set of face masks, goggles, hand sanitizer and thermometer, all made of paper. – AFP photo

Paper masks and goggles are among offerings that ethnic Chinese in Malaysia will burn to mark “Tomb Sweeping Day”, hoping their ancestors can use them to fight the coronavirus in the afterlife. Qingming is one of the most important dates for Chinese communities, and is observed across East and Southeast Asia. During the festival, which this year falls on Sunday, it is customary for Chinese to offer prayers, sweep their loved ones’ graves and burn paper models of items that could be useful in the afterlife.

These can range from money and shoes to yachts and planes-but the pandemic has led to the addition of virus-themed offerings. A shop in the town of Rawang, just outside the capital Kuala Lumpur, is selling a set of paper masks with small boxes carrying pictures of goggles, a bottle of hand sanitizer and a thermometer.

“We want our ancestors to realize the importance of wearing a mask during the pandemic, so we introduced this,” store owner Jacky Hoi told AFP, holding a packet containing the items. He believes the set will prove popular in Muslim-majority Malaysia, where about a quarter of the country’s 32 million inhabitants are ethnic Chinese, as it “will let our ancestors have a chance to fight the pandemic”.

Hoi is missing one important thing-a paper vaccine-something he says that he is yet to come across when ordering the items from China. Chinese in Malaysia will be observing “Tomb Sweeping Day” for the first time since 2019, as activities related to the festival were cancelled last year due to a virus lockdown.

Rules will be implemented to prevent infections, including a cap on the number of people allowed to take part and a time limit on prayers. Malaysia was hit by a new Covid-19 wave in recent months. The number of cases has started to decline, although health authorities are still reporting around 1,000 infections and several deaths every day. – AFP


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