The Straits Times says

Go electronic this Chinese New Year

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The hongbao or red packets usually exchanged during the Chinese New Year festive period are a familiar aspect of the social and cultural traditions that have been inherited in Singapore and elsewhere over generations. The hand-to-hand giving of hongbao brings the tangibility of human touch into familial relationships that are precious in Chinese culture, as in others. However, the coronavirus pandemic has impacted many cultural practices because of concerns about close proximity and large gatherings, which can prove to be a channel of transmission - not for lasting values but for a deadly virus. Handshakes and hugs are also a case in point. Clearly, the Covid-19 outbreak has provided an opportunity to relook some cultural habits and practices, given that this epidemiological emergency is still in effect.

In the light of that, the Monetary Authority of Singapore is encouraging Singaporeans to opt for e-hongbao this Chinese New Year. This shift would preclude, for one thing, the need for people to visit bank branches physically to line up and collect the new notes that are placed in red packets and given out to loved ones. Given the exigencies of safe distancing that must be observed at bank branches, any reduction in crowd sizes and the number of people in queues would be a gain as far as healthcare vigilance is concerned. There is no bar on people doing so. But those who wish to give new and good-as-new notes for Chinese New Year will have to make an appointment using their bank's online reservation system before visiting the branches to collect the notes.

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