Taiwan government encourages public to conduct tomb-sweeping rituals online amid coronavirus

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Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung.

Interior Minister Hsu Kuo-yung. (CNA photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The government is encouraging the public to carry out tomb-sweeping rituals for the upcoming Qingming Festival online to prevent the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19), which has sickened 47 people in the island nation.

As one of the most important festivals for Chinese-speaking society, the Qingming Festival, which falls on April 4 this year, is when people visit the graveyard of their ancestors to clean tombs, make offerings, and pray. The Ministry of the Interior is now encouraging people who keep the cinerary urns of their ancestors in columbaria or who have given their diseased family members natural burials to carry out the tomb-sweeping rituals online.

It would prevent possible clusters of viral infection through people crowding in columbaria or cemeteries for hours. Several city governments have allowed citizens to pay their tribute to ancestors via designated websites, where they can leave messages and even offer virtual flowers, fruit, and offerings, said the ministry.

Cemeteries and columbaria will limit the number of visitors during the Qingming Festival, but they will open to the public early in March, according to the ministry. People are encouraged to arrange their visits earlier or later than the festival to prevent contact with large crowds.

The ministry said it is advising funeral facilities and burial service providers to refrain from holding large memorial events that anticipate more than 1,000 attendees. Organizers can also consider streaming events online to prevent the risk of a potential virus outbreak, the ministry added.

Memorial events, if necessary, should take place in locations with adequate ventilation and precautionary measures. Participants should have their temperatures taken and hands disinfected before entering the venues, said the ministry.