Singapore Appeals for Restraint During Lunar New Year

Singaporeans should toss their yusheng raw fish dish into the air quietly in the traditional lohei celebration as they usher in the Year of the Ox, according to measures the government announced to keep a lid on the virus pandemic.

“Diners should also avoid raising their voices, at all times” and wear masks, the ministry of health said in a statement Friday. “The lohei should be done without any verbalization of the usual auspicious phrases.”

The government appealed for restraint during the Lunar New Year period, when families typically do multiple rounds of home visits. People should limit themselves to two household visits a day, and each household won’t be allowed to receive more than eight “distinct” visitors a day, starting from Jan. 26. The government will also postpone the start of sports competitions among schools.

“Let us be mentally prepared that Chinese New Year this year will not be the same as before, it will be quieter, it will be more subdued,” Education Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs the virus task force, said during a briefing on Friday. “And we will have to be more disciplined in how we go about our daily activities and interactions.”

The new measures come as the city-state has in recent days experienced an uptick in new Covid-19 community cases, although these remain in the single digits. With one of the most successful virus containment strategies in the world, Singapore employs a suite of testing and social measures that includes mandatory mask wearing outdoors and safe distancing.

“What is worrying is that these cases and clusters reflect a certain degree of complacency,” said Minister for Health Gan Kim Yong, who co-chairs the virus task force.

The fact that some virus cases are currently unlinked is a “real cause for concern” as it could indicate there is wider, as yet undetected, community transmission, the ministry’s statement said.

“With everyone’s cooperation, we can avoid sparking large clusters which may then necessitate further tightening of measures or even a reversion to Phase Two or Phase One measures,” the statement said.


More than 60,000 individuals have received their first dose of the vaccine as of Friday, including staff working in healthcare, nursing home, frontline and essential services, as well as seniors in nursing homes.

The health ministry said there will be some delays to the shipments of Pfizer Inc.-BioNTech SE vaccines due to Pfizer’s manufacturing plant upgrading. Singapore is aiming to ensure that it has enough vaccines for all citizens and long-term residents in the city-state by the third quarter.

“We will continue to monitor our supplies closely to meet our target of vaccinating all Singaporeans and long-term residents in Singapore by the end of this year,” Gan said.

Here are other measures the government is undertaking:

  • Surveillance testing will be carried out Feb. 8-9 for stallholders, shop owners, persons in the food and beverage industry, as well as food delivery persons operating in and around Chinatown.
  • Government to continue to bear costs of routine testing for some workers until Sept. 30.
  • Pilot to vaccinate elderly people to start Jan. 27.

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