Coronavirus: Thinner crowds at Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on Goddess of Mercy's birthday

Devotees and stallholders outside Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, on the day of Guan Yin’s birthday, on March 12, 2020. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Usually a spectacle of devotees, vendors and donation collectors during this time of year, the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple received a noticeably smaller crowd on Thursday (March 12) as it celebrated the birthday of Guanyin, the Goddess of Mercy.

While the staff of the temple declined comment, stall owners and devotees alike found the area a lot less crowded than it usually would be.

For stall owner Shirley Loke, who sells flowers and joss sticks outside the temple in Waterloo Street, the lower footfall has become the norm since Singapore announced its first case of the coronavirus disease.

"Normally for Guanyin's birthday, there are crowds of people packed here, (making it) difficult to walk past," said the 63-year-old, who opened her stall for business at 4am.

"Usually over the celebration, there are over 10,000 people, but today there's a lot less - maybe about 3,000 so far.

Saying that the crowds were also half of the usual during Chinese New Year, she added: "Every day has been affected because of this virus."

The goddess' birthday as a mortal being is celebrated on the 19th day of the second month in the Chinese lunar calendar.

It is one of the larger festivals commemorated at the 136-year-old Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple, known to many as the Simalu Guanyin Temple, where Guanyin is the main deity.

When The Straits Times visited the temple on Thursday afternoon, there were signs with the Ministry of Health logo reminding people to be socially responsible.

The temperature of each person entering the temple was also taken.

Speaking to ST at the exit, devotee Jason Loh noted the smaller turnout, but said this did not affect the practices of the devotees.

The 30-year-old funeral director said: "Everyone in there is still behaving the same and coming in close contact with each other, almost acting like there's no virus. The only thing is they took our temperature, so there is precaution taken by the staff."

Banker Sophie Wong, 29, who has been visiting the temple for the past 10 years, said:

"As long as I keep myself clean, I feel it's fine to continue religious practices. I don't want to use the virus as an excuse to avoid coming down."

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