Asia Minute: Singapore Adopts Cautious Approach to Lunar New Year

Jan 25, 2021

Every week, the fight against COVID-19 continues on many fronts — from wearing masks to distributing vaccines. In parts of Asia, one focus that's now less than a month away is the Lunar New Year. It's a traditional time for travel and large family gatherings, and one country is already starting to make some changes.

Singapore is one of the first governments out of the gate with restrictions targeting the combination of Lunar New Year and COVID-19. Starting tomorrow, each household in the country will be limited to eight visitors a day.

That may sound like a lot compared to some places, but with the Lunar New Year coming, it’s a significant rule change in this community.

Also, individuals are asked to limit their visits to other households to two a day. And during the New Year celebrations, people should only visit family members.

These revised guidelines are coming from Singapore’s multi-agency task force that oversees coronavirus policy — headed by Education Minister Lawrence Wong.

There are other rules, including the guidance that voices should not be raised at any time, because loud talking and shouting can spread the virus.

A year ago, the country saw a spike in COVID-19 cases after the Lunar New Year holidays — with many clusters linked to large gatherings.

Authorities are determined not to repeat that experience — Education Minister Wong says this year’s celebrations will be “quieter . . . more subdued” — saying “we will have to be more disciplined in how we go about our daily activities and interactions.”

Hong Kong, mainland China and other locations are also taking precautionary steps ahead of the New Year — we’ll hear details in coming days.