SINGAPORE - Bereft of tourists due to border closures and flight suspensions, the streets of Chinatown have been quiet through the Covid-19 outbreak.
But an organising committee hopes to bring some cheer back to the area in September by staging the annual Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations - albeit scaled down and mostly online to ensure safe distancing.
Online competitions such as lantern painting or Instagram photo contests will be held instead of nightly stage shows, festive bazaars and mass lantern walks.
While the traditional street light-up will still take place from Sept 17 to Oct 16, a 360-degree virtual tour of the decorations will also be made available so that people can admire them from the comfort of their homes.
The light-up ceremony will take place on Sept 17 and will be livestreamed online.
This year's street light-up will involve about 700 lanterns and sculptures, which will depict traditional festival motifs and characters including Chang'e, goddess of the moon in Chinese mythology.
They will also illustrate this year's theme, which is family, and underscore the central role that familial ties play in getting Singaporeans through the crisis, Mr Vincent Tan, chairman of the Chinatown Mid-Autumn Festival 2020 Organising Committee, told The Straits Times on Saturday (Aug 29).
"(It also) reminds all Singaporeans that we can weather through this crisis as one united Singapore family," he added.
The lanterns and sculptures will line New Bridge Road, Eu Tong Sen Street and South Bridge Road. A 10m-tall centrepiece depicting a family reunion scene will also be placed at the junction of Eu Tong Sen Street and Upper Cross Street.
Mr Tan said the committee had decided to scale down the event and be more financially prudent in marking the festival this year in view of Covid-19. It is expecting this year's celebrations to cost 70 per cent less than in previous years.
But the committee also felt it was still important to mark the occasion amid the crisis.
"We wanted to uplift the spirits of Singaporeans during this difficult time," said Mr Tan. It also demonstrates the committee's commitment to promote Chinese culture and the heritage and traditions of festival despite the circumstances, he added.
Visitors are welcome to visit Chinatown to take in the decorations this year, though they should be mindful of the need to avoid crowding and practise safe distancing, Mr Tan said.
The authorities have deployed safe distancing officers in Chinatown and the committee may work with them to ensure that rules are being adhered to during the celebrations, he added.
Mr Tan said that with less footfall in Chinatown due to the absence of tourists, he hoped the festive decorations would draw more traffic to the area and help struggling local businesses.