Singapore—Chinatown was so congested on Saturday (Jan 30), The New Paper (TNP) reported, that social distancing was impossible.
This has given rise to fears of a Covid-19 super spreader event, despite the low number of community cases in Singapore.
The presence of Covid-19, in fact, has caused the cancellation of Chinatown’s Chinese New Year bazaar, with many vendors deciding to go online and do digital events instead.
But old habits, as they say, die hard.
TNP reported large crowds at Trengganu Street, Temple Street and Pagoda Street, although everyone was wearing a mask.
Still, the sheer volume of people in the stores and streets of Chinatown meant people were standing very close together.
Moreover, TNP reported that only one store was seen implementing the protocol for SafeEntry, which would enable contact tracing in the event that someone tests positive for Covid-19.
The report quotes Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease specialist as saying, ”Too many people. Exactly what the virus would want. I expected it. We have Covid fatigue.”
What is more worrisome is that some people among the crowds in Chinatown did not seen concerned, feeling like their masks would be enough to protect them.
And even though the bazaar had been cancelled as early as November of last year, people flocked to Chinatown nevertheless.
Dr Leong warned that a super spreader event could happen.
“If we continue like this, a super spreading event will occur. What made us safe previously may not be good enough for the next lap.”
New strains of the infection are proving to have higher transmission rates, and what may have worked to protect people in the past, may not work anymore.
Some health professionals have even recommended double masking to prevent the spread of the more transmissible strains.
Last week, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that this year’s Chinese New Year celebrations will need to be pared down so that no new infection clusters start.
At a visit to the Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic on the first day of Covid-19 vaccinations for senior citizens, he said that he will be celebrating Chinese New Year “with eight visitors — not more — from the family.”
Festivities could lead to a super-spreader event, which is why additional curbs have been set, he added.
“Chinese New Year, just like … other festivals, (it 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.”
A few dozen new infection clusters could send the country back into a Circuit Breaker scenario, which the Prime Minister called “a very high and disruptive cost for all of us in Singapore to pay”.
Therefore, he urged Singaporeans to exercise restraint and celebrate Chinese New Year in a more low-key manner this year, so that next year, bigger celebrations may resume.
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