Singaporeans have to take precautions as they celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year amid the coronavirus pandemic, to guard against the risk of new clusters forming, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.
On his part, he will be having a small celebration at home. PM Lee said: "I am going to do my usual visits to essential workers who are still working away during this period... Then I will celebrate Chinese New Year with eight visitors - not more - from the family."
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, where vaccinations for seniors aged 70 and above kicked off yesterday, PM Lee stressed that there remains a danger of a super-spreader event occurring during the festivities.
Chinese New Year, he noted, involves people visiting one another in large numbers, just like other festivals. "You have food, you have drinks, you have a good time, you gamble together... Each time you do that, there is a risk."
The Government is able to keep things under control if one or two cases emerge, he added.
"Five, six, seven cases in a cluster, if we are lucky, we work very hard, we trace hundreds of people, we can squeeze it down."
But if a few dozen clusters emerge, then there is a very real risk that Singapore may go back to the situation in March and April last year, when cases spiked. "We had to lock down with a circuit breaker, and that's a very high and disruptive cost for all of us in Singapore to pay."
Rather than take that risk, Singaporeans can restrain themselves, and celebrate Chinese New Year differently this year to keep Singapore safe, PM Lee added.
Under new measures announced by the Covid-19 multi-ministry task force, only up to eight visitors are allowed per household each day.
Individuals are advised to visit a maximum of two households daily.
Diners should also avoid shouting auspicious phrases when engaging in lohei, or the tossing of yusheng.
PM Lee said: "When you lohei, please do it in your hearts. If you must have the sound, there are very good apps - you press the button and they will say the right words for you."
He also said he hopes everybody will understand that this will not be a normal Year of the Ox. "Celebrate it in the right spirit but keep ourselves safe, so that perhaps a year from now, when the Year of the Tiger comes around, we would be roaring like a tiger."
PM Lee, who received his first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine on Jan 8, said he will be receiving his second dose tomorrow. Apart from his arm feeling slightly sore for the first two days, he did not have any side effects.
President Halimah Yacob also got the jab on the sidelines of a visit to Outram Polyclinic yesterday. "The process was quick, simple and not painful at all," she wrote in a Facebook post afterwards.
She urged Singaporeans to take the vaccine when it becomes available to them, adding that a high level of vaccination coverage will maximise protection for the population and minimise the proportion of people still susceptible to Covid-19.
Madam Halimah added that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore's position is that Covid-19 vaccines are permissible for use by Muslims.
"By taking the vaccination, we will not only protect ourselves, but also our loved ones against Covid-19, as we need to safeguard our family members and friends," she said.