S'poreans going ahead with CNY plans despite Covid-19 surge, Chinatown businesses see boost in sales

Shoppers in Chinatown on Jan 23, 2022. Some businesses there are seeing an improvement in sales this Chinese New Year compared with last year. ST PHOTO: THADDEUS ANG

SINGAPORE - Ms Lim Poh Tee, 56, had hoped that larger groups of visitors would be allowed this Chinese New Year, so that her sons and their families could celebrate together.

But when she heard that the group size of only up to five will remain for the festive period, she and her children made slight adjustments to their planned visitations. The group size allowed last Chinese New Year was up to eight.

The retiree, who has three sons in their 20s and 30s, and five grandchildren ranging from 1½ to 12 years old, is understanding of the situation, adding that prevention is better than cure.

She told The Straits Times in Mandarin: "My sons and their families will be visiting me separately on the first day and second day of Chinese New Year."

At a press conference last Friday, the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 pandemic said Singapore is likely to see a "significant wave" of cases as the more infectious Omicron variant spreads through the community.

Noting that about 70 per cent of daily cases are now of the Omicron variant, Trade and Industry Minister Gan Kim Yong said existing safe management measures will be maintained through the festive period to lower the risk of transmission and reduce the stress on the healthcare system.

Most of the people The Straits Times spoke to said they are going ahead with their Chinese New Year plans despite the surge in cases.

A bank employee, who wished to be identified only as Ms Goh, said her family will continue last year's practice of visiting only immediate family members.

The 35-year-old also plans to take her two sons, aged five and eight, to the zoo on the second day of Chinese New Year.

"We will likely move on or keep our distance at a particular exhibit when there is a large group of people," she added.

Ms Goh said her family has also been taking antigen rapid tests weekly as a precaution.

Secretary Jana Tee said she and her siblings will take turns to visit their mother with their families, so they can adhere to the safe management measures.

They will also take measures such as wearing masks and washing their hands frequently.

She added: "(Covid-19) has been going on for two years. We will just have to carry on with how we are doing things currently. It has already become the norm."

Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, said people should maintain safe distancing in homes that they visit.

He also suggested keeping homes well ventilated and avoiding the use air-conditioning if possible.

"Use a KF94, KN95 or N95 mask if you have one. Double-mask your surgical mask and tie it with a mask extender tightly," said Dr Leong.

Associate Professor Hsu Li Yang from the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School Of Public Health said it would be best if the public could either avoid visiting elderly persons who are unvaccinated or take a swab test before doing so.

As Singaporeans stay home for reunion dinners, some businesses in Chinatown are seeing an improvement in sales compared with Chinese New Year last year.

Shoppers at the Chinatown Complex wet market on Jan 23, 2022. ST PHOTO: THADDEUS ANG
Shoppers at a Chinese sausage and waxed meat stall in Chinatown Street Market on Jan 23, 2022. ST PHOTO: THADDEUS ANG

Madam Low Sai Teng, 68, who owns a seafood stall with her husband in the Chinatown Complex wet market, said business has increased by about 40 per cent this year.

She said in Mandarin: "I think that because of the restrictions (of five people) this year, more people are intending to buy ingredients and cook at home."

Mr Yip Wei Keong, 59, who owns a Chinese sausage and waxed meat stall in Chinatown Street Market, said his business has gone up by about 20 per cent this year.

He said in Mandarin: "Most people have taken their booster shots so it's safer for them (to go out). The weather has also been quite good recently, so people are more willing to come out for a walk and immerse themselves in the festive atmosphere."

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