SINGAPORE: Eight visitors a day in a household and no shouting while tossing yusheng - this Chinese New Year will be a much quieter affair given new COVID-19 restrictions announced on Friday (Jan 22).
The tighter measures come amid a recent rise in community cases and the possible risk of transmission during the festive period.
“Let us be mentally prepared that Chinese New Year this year will not be the same as before," said Education Minister and co-chair of the COVID-19 task force Lawrence Wong at a press conference.
"It will be quieter, it will be more subdued. And we will have to be more disciplined in how we go about our daily activities and interactions.”
Here’s what you need to take note of before welcoming the Year of the Ox.
1. EIGHT VISITORS PER DAY AT EACH HOUSEHOLD
There will be no large family gatherings this year as every household should only receive up to eight visitors each day.
This restriction will take effect from Jan 26 and is aimed at mitigating the risk of large community clusters arising from infections that spread within a household and through them to all their contacts.
People should also limit themselves to visiting a maximum of two other households a day as much as possible, said the Ministry of Health (MOH).
The authorities encouraged members of the public to “connect digitally” with their family and friends instead of going on physical visits.
2. DON’T FORGET YOUR FACE MASK, TRACETOGETHER TOKEN
People should by now be used to putting on their masks when they step out of their houses. But MOH said you should also keep them on while visiting.
"Individuals are reminded to wear masks at all times when outside your home, including when visiting someone else’s home," said the ministry.
"Refrain from eating and/or drinking while walking around in public places so that you will be able to keep your mask on."
The COVID-19 multi-ministry task force also reminded people to turn on their TraceTogether app or carry their TraceTogether token at all times, including when receiving guests or visiting others at home.
3. KEEP YOUR LOHEI QUIET
If you choose to dine out, remember to keep your face masks on during the tossing of yusheng.
The “lohei” should be done without any verbalisation of the usual auspicious phrases and diners are reminded to avoid raising their voices, said Mr Wong. This is in line with the current rules on wearing a mask when diners are not eating or drinking.
Food and beverage establishments and businesses serving the festive dish must ensure that both staff members and customers comply with these requirements, said the authorities.
4. NO MULTIPLE TABLE BOOKINGS
Reunion dinner with extended family will likely not be possible at restaurants as multiple table bookings are still not permitted.
An exception is made for those from the same household, although inter-mingling across tables remains prohibited. The authorities also encouraged people to keep their social circle small instead of mixing with multiple social groups.
5. NO CNY COMPANY EVENTS
There will be no festivities at work this Chinese New Year as companies have been reminded not to organise gatherings or activates such as lohei or meals. Such activities are not considered work-related events and are not allowed under current rules.
Working from home should remain the default to minimise the risk of COVID-19 transmission at the workplace, said Singapore's tripartite partners.
6. GIFT AN E-HONGBAO
The use of e-hongbao is encouraged this year. Not only is it better for the environment, it will also help reduce queues at banks for new notes. E-hongbao will also allow “remote gifting” across a variety of visits including during virtual Chinese New Year gatherings, the Monetary Authority of Singapore said earlier this month.
For those who prefer to stick to tradition, they will need to make online reservations with their banks to get new physical notes. With the exception of those aged 60 and above and people with disabilities, an online appointment is mandatory before you head down to the bank.
7. MORE ENFORCEMENT CHECKS
Take note of the rules and avoid breaking the law if you want the start the Year of the Ox on a good note. Enforcement checks at F&B establishments, shopping malls and other crowded public spaces will be stepped up during the Chinese New Year period.
Strict enforcement actions will be taken against errant members of the public and business operators. Penalties for flouting COVID-19 safe management measures include fines and prosecution in court, depending on the severity of the offence.
For businesses who do not comply with the measures, their operations will be suspended.