Cover People walk on a pedestrian street in Chinatown on February 6, 2021, in Singapore. (Photo: Getty Images)

If you're planning a Chinese New Year party, remember that you are only allowed to gather in groups of five and that all work-related events need to be pre-approved by the authorities

This story was first published on November 10, 2021, and updated on January 21, 2022. 

As a result of the increasing number of Covid-19 cases brought about by the new Omicron variant, Singapore’s current set of Covid-19 safe management rules will stay in place during the upcoming Chinese New Year period, according to Finance Minister Lawrence Wong during a press conference on January 5. 

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This means that we will not see an increase in the number of people that we can dine out with or invite to our homes and all the current caps on event size numbers will remain through the celebrations which will take place from February 1.

Mr Wong, who is the co-chair of the multi-ministry task force handling Covid-19, added that he could not imagine the Omicron wave passing before Chinese New Year and this was why the present posture would be maintained. 

“Chinese New Year may be a time when Omicron cases are rising. So we cannot afford to have more superspreader events taking place during that time. And therefore we would like to encourage and urge everyone to continue exercising personal and social responsibility and to comply and cooperate with all the safe management measures,” he said

“Let’s all do our part to keep our family members, our friends and our loved ones safe even as we usher in the new year,” he continued. 

Mr Wong added that they are hoping that they will not have to tighten measures in the coming weeks and that a lot will depend on if the healthcare system gets overwhelmed by the Omicron wave of infections.

Currently, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said it expects the number of cases to rise sharply.

“Cases could double every two to three days and could reach 10,000 to 15,000, or even more, cases per day,” the ministry said in a media release.

However, Omicron is less severe which means that our healthcare system is less likely to be quickly overwhelmed like it was when the Delta variant came into the picture. 

“The percentage of those who needed oxygen supplementation, intensive care or die is far lower than during the Delta wave. This is in line with the experience of other countries like South Africa and the United Kingdom,” said co-chair of the multi-ministry task force, Mr Gan Kim Yong on January 21.

That said, the government still reminded Singapore residents that Omicron has a higher transmissibility and that they should still exercise caution. 

“Omicron’s higher transmissibility means that we cannot let our guard down, as an uncontrolled rise in overall case numbers could still push hospital and ICU admissions to unmanageable levels,” MOH said.

If you are planning your Chinese New Year gatherings and parties already, keep reading to stay up to date on all the current Covid-19 measures that you need to take note of.

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Group sizes will be capped at five

Fully vaccinated individuals will continue to be able to dine out in groups of five even if they are not from the same household so if you are planning a celebratory lunch or dinner, your plans will not be impacted. 

Do note that booking multiple tables is still not allowed unless you are from the same household though.

Large-scale events, including religious processions or dinner banquets, will also “continue to be disallowed to avoid super spreading events,” said MOH. 

However, you will also be able to welcome five distinct visitors to your homes during the season so mini steamboat gatherings and family meals are still on the agenda.

However, you should ensure that you are well and that you test yourself regularly before attending any gatherings this season. 

“Individuals may wish to take an (antigen rapid test) in advance of such gatherings, particularly if there will be elderly or unvaccinated family members present,” MOH said in a press release on January 21.

You cannot visit hospitals and residential care homes

If you have loved ones in hospitals or residential care homes over Chinese New Year, unfortunately, you will not be able to visit them in person this season. 

This is because all in-person visits to hospital wards and residential care homes will be suspended for four weeks from January 24 to February 22, according to MOH on January 21. 

This is to “better protect our patients and healthcare workers”, particularly in settings with vulnerable people, amid a looming Omicron wave, MOH said.

That said, in-person visits will still be granted for exceptional cases such as if the patient or resident is critically ill. This will be determined by the hospital or home.

Work-related events will be allowed

Many companies tend to hold Chinese New Year parties or events for their employees and thankfully, this is still on the table. 

From January 3, companies are allowed to hold work-related events of up to 1,000 people. This is up from 50 participants. 

However, there must be no mask-off activities at the event, such as the consumption of food and beverages, according to the Ministry of Manpower (MOM) and the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI) on January 1. 

Participants must also be predominantly seated or standing in fixed positions and must keep a distance of at least one meter from each other and be in zones of up to 100 people each, with two meters between zones.

All participants must also be either fully vaccinated, recovered from Covid-19 within the past 180 days, or be medically ineligible for vaccines under the national vaccination programme.

Organisers are required to notify the authorities using this link before the event and submit an itinerary and floor plan before they can proceed. 

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