SINGAPORE - Singaporeans have to take precautions as they celebrate the upcoming Chinese New Year amid the pandemic, to guard against the risk of new clusters forming, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Wednesday (Jan 27).
On his part, he will be having a small celebration at home. PM Lee said: "I will 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."
He will also be visiting front-line workers at the airport, and at one of the hospitals.
Speaking to reporters during a visit to Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic, where vaccinations for seniors aged 70 and above kicked off on Wednesday, PM Lee stressed that there remains a danger of a super-spreader event occurring during the new year festivities.
"Chinese New Year, just like... other festivals, (involves) people visiting one another in big numbers. You enjoy yourself, you have food, you have drinks, you gamble together. And each time we 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 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 the risk, Singaporeans can all 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 that kicked in on Tuesday, 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 the tossing of yusheng or during lohei.
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."
"I hope everybody will understand that this is not a normal Year of the Ox, we do have to take precautions... 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."
Covid-19 vaccinations for seniors kick off
PM Lee said he is glad that the vaccination process for seniors at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic was running smoothly, with more than 200 who having made appointments to receive Covid-19 vaccine jabs at the polyclinic on Wednesday.
"So far, everybody who has booked those slots has turned up. Very few no-shows. So I think that people are taking it seriously and in the right spirit," he said, urging Singaporeans to come forward to get their jabs when their turn comes.
Close to 100,000 people have been vaccinated here since the process started in December.
Seniors have told him that Silver Generation Ambassadors have been visiting them to provide information on the vaccines.
They have also been talking to grassroot leaders.
PM Lee said: "We've been giving them reassurance, explaining to them what this is about, encouraging them to come forward and to get vaccinated."
Mr Lee, who received the first dose of the vaccine on Jan 8, said he will be receiving the second dose on Friday.
"I did not experience any side effects, apart from my arm feeling slightly sore on the first two days. I didn't have a fever, cold, chills, nor did I have to take Panadol... I think most people will experience the same as what I did."