COVID-19: No 'Huat ah!' allowed – 6 things to observe this Chinese New Year

A shop display stuffed toys related to the Chinese zodiac sign of the Ox ahead of the Lunar New Year in the Chinatown area of Singapore on January 25, 2021. (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN / AFP) (Photo by ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images)
A shop display stuffed toys related to the Chinese zodiac sign of the Ox ahead of the Lunar New Year in Singapore's Chinatown on 25 January, 2021. (PHOTO: AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The start of the Year of the Ox will be relatively muted due to the safe management measures in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic that has gripped the world since early last year.

“Let us be mentally prepared that Chinese New Year this year will not be the same as before. It will be quieter, it will be more subdued,” said COVID-19 taskforce co-chair and Education Minister Lawrence Wong last week during a press conference.

Here are the rules to observe this Chinese New Year:

Eight visitors per day: From 26 January, each household can only receive eight distinct visitors per day.

Authorities say the cap on visitors per household is to further mitigate the risk of large community clusters arising from infections that spread within a household and through them to their contacts.

Individuals should also limit themselves to visiting at most two other households a day, as much as possible.

Mask on: Wear your mask at all times when outside your home, including when visiting someone else’s home. Abide by the usual safe distancing measures and personal hygiene practices while visiting.

Go virtual, if possible: Authorities have strongly encouraged residents to keep in touch with friends virtually rather than have physical meetings. It would be best to limit physical visits to family members only and to keep social gatherings small instead of mixing with multiple groups.

They have also been advised to opt for e-hongbaos to minimise contact during visitations as well as to reduce physical queues for notes.

Quiet lohei: While in restaurants, patrons must don face masks when they are partaking in lohei (tossing of a raw fish salad called yusheng). Shouting of auspicious phrases, be it by patrons or staff members, is not allowed. Toasting at public events will also not be allowed.

Fewer lion dances, no dragon dances: Lion dance troupes will not be performing at coffee shops, food centres, and markets, as well as homes and residential areas.

The number of performers is capped at eight this year, which means dragon dances cannot be performed as they usually require more performers.

Except for those controlling the head and the tail during the performance, it is mandatory for all performers to don masks.

Reunion dinner at separate tables: Multiple table bookings for large groups of over eight are still not permitted at restaurants, which means a reunion dinner with the extended family is a no go this year.

An exception would be made for large families from the same household – each table must be limited to eight or fewer people, with at least one-metre spacing between groups and no intermingling is allowed between tables.

Authorities have said that they will step up enforcement checks at F&B establishments, malls, and other crowded public spaces during the Chinese New Year period.

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