No races to celebrate Dragon Boat Festival once again amid Covid-19 curbs

The minimum number of people needed to paddle in a 12-crew boat is five. But safety allow only two persons in a sub-group. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - For the second year in a row, dragon boaters will not be in action in Bedok Reservoir during the Dragon Boat Festival.

Just like last year, Covid-19 safe management measures have put on hold the races in the event.

In previous years, the two-day celebration attracted over 3,000 participants and supporters each year from more than 120 Singapore Dragon Boat Association (SDBA) affiliate teams.

The festival, also known as Dumpling Festival or Duan Wu Jie, is celebrated on the fifth day of the fifth lunar month, which falls on Monday (June 14) this year.

Due to Covid-19, the SDBA said it was unable to conduct any large-scale commemorative event.

The minimum number of people needed to paddle in a 12-crew boat is five.

But the safety measures in phase two allow only two people in a sub-group.

Ms Apple Huang, vice-president of publicity and promotion at the SDBA, said this is the second year in a row that the association had to cancel its annual flagship event.

But she noted that the dragon boat community had become more united during the pandemic.

"We treasure every opportunity to train and race. When the situation does not allow it, like now, we do our part to fight the virus by getting ourselves vaccinated and staying at home."

Ms Huang said the SDBA is using its Facebook and Instagram pages to spread the word about the origins of the festival and the growth of dragon boating as a sport and recreational activity here.

The Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the life of Qu Yuan, a third-century poet and political figure in the state of Chu in ancient China.

He drowned himself in the river after the capital of his country was captured.

It is said that the dragon boat races originated from the locals' search for his body.

When they could not find it, they sought to preserve his body by hitting the water with their boat paddles and beating drums to scare evil spirits away.

They also threw lumps of rice into the river to prevent his body from being eaten by fish, which became the origin of rice dumplings.

Separately, President Halimah Yacob and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in Facebook posts on Monday that while the dragon boat races have been cancelled due to Covid-19, Singaporeans can still celebrate the festival by enjoying dumplings and spending time with family and friends at home during the June holidays.

Madam Halimah added that she received some halal dumplings from her friends last week that she and her family enjoyed tremendously.

"I'm glad to be able to enjoy a bit of Chinese culture every year," she said.

PM Lee said: "Whether you made your own bak chang at home, or bought some to support your favourite hawker, stay safe and keep watching out for one another, even as we head out into the 'new normal'.

"Things are not quite the same yet, but united, we are heading in the right direction."

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