Organizers of the Dajia Matsu Pilgrimage, the largest annual religious procession in Taiwan, said Monday that the event will be held this year from June 11-20, nearly three months later than the original date due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The event, organized annually by Taichung's Jenn Lann Temple, was originally slated for March 19-28, but was postponed after the temple's chairman, Yen Ching-piao (顏清標), consulted with health professionals about possible risks.
As the COVID-19 pandemic has now stabilized in Taiwan and some relevant restrictions have been lifted, the procession will begin late Thursday, Vice Chairman Cheng Ming-kun (鄭銘坤) said Monday.
The actual procession workers will be limited to 800 people, whose names will be recorded and their temperatures checked daily, Cheng said at a press conference.
All participants in the procession will be required to wear masks at all times, said Cheng, who also called for followers of Matsu to follow the procession online rather than in person this year, and urged those with fevers not to attend.
An outdoor banquet that typically marks the beginning of the celebration, which more than 10,000 people attended last year, will be canceled, Cheng added.
Asked whether the temple has consulted with the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC), Cheng said it is planning on doing so.
People welcoming the Matsu statue in southern Chiayi County/ CNA photo April 10, 2019
In response to the temple's announcement, CECC deputy chief Chen Tsung-yen (陳宗彥) confirmed the temple's plans follow CECC regulations.
Chen also echoed Cheng's calls for people to follow the procession online and to maintain proper hygiene if they choose to attend in person.
The procession is held annually to celebrate the birthday of the sea goddess Matsu and features the Matsu statue of the Jenn Lann Temple being carried on a paladin on the shoulders of worshipers throughout central Taiwan.
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gather along the more-than 340-kilometer route that travels through Taichung, Changhua County, Yunlin County and Chiayi County to celebrate the occasion.