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Important to show appreciation to family over Chinese New Year, but COVID-19 restrictions necessary: PM Lee

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SINGAPORE: Showing appreciation to family members this Chinese New Year is “perhaps more important than ever” amid COVID-19, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on Thursday (Feb 11).

“Chinese New Year is a time for reunions and celebration. Tonight, across Singapore, families will enjoy dinners with their loved ones. Over the next few days, we will visit parents and relatives in smaller groups to exchange New Year wishes for good health and prosperity, and to welcome new arrivals to the family,” said Mr Lee in his Chinese New Year message.

“The warmth, comfort and support of our families have given all of us strength to get through the most trying times of COVID-19.”

But stricter COVID-19 measures are necessary as the coronavirus is still “spreading rapidly” around the world, said the Prime Minister.

Restrictions on home gatherings have been tightened to no more than eight visitors a day, and people should visit at most two other households daily and only to relatives.

READ: Rules on visiting and tossing yusheng: 7 things to note this Chinese New Year amid COVID-19

“This January, we saw the new waves of infection caused by year-end celebrations in many countries, where many people gathered and let their guard down. This is something we should learn from and avoid,” said Mr Lee.

“I know these restrictions will dampen the festive atmosphere somewhat. Bigger extended families will be especially inconvenienced. But the precautions are essential to keep our loved ones safe.

“I am sure you will find other ways to hold your reunions and connect with family members and friends, perhaps through video calls or teleconferencing.”

People can look forward to “more carefree” celebrations when the pandemic is over, he added.

VACCINATIONS FOR WHOLE POPULATION IN 2021

Singapore should be able to offer COVID-19 vaccinations to its whole population within this year, provided vaccine supplies come in as scheduled, said Mr Lee.

About 250,000 people in Singapore have already received the first dose of the vaccine so far.

“We have vaccinated most frontline and essential workers, and are now vaccinating our seniors, starting with those over 70,” said the Prime Minister.

READ: Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine authorised for use in Singapore, first shipment expected around March

Mr Lee said he “strongly” encourages everyone to take the vaccine when it is their turn.

“Vaccination protects ourselves, and our loved ones. Furthermore, if enough of us are vaccinated, our population will have herd immunity.

“But we are not there yet, so in the meantime please keep up our safe distancing precautions, even if you yourself have been vaccinated,” he added.

READ: More frequent tests, additional requirements likely for those who do not take COVID-19 vaccine: Lawrence Wong

Keeping people safe from COVID-19, especially seniors, has been the Government’s top priority, said the Prime Minister.

“We have gone all out to control the spread of the virus, treat the infected and prevent our healthcare system from being overwhelmed, even at great economic cost. Because of this tremendous effort, our COVID-19 situation has now stabilised.”

Mr Lee added that Singapore has avoided the “disastrous outbreaks and the enormous pain and suffering” experienced by many other countries, and has restarted most of its economy while cautiously resuming cross-border travel.

READ: People who need to travel have to wait turn to be vaccinated for COVID-19: MOH

“As we welcome the Year of the Ox, we can look back and give thanks that we have come through the Year of the Rat, not without trouble, but relatively unscathed.”

The Prime Minister also called on people to show their appreciation for healthcare and transport workers, cleaners, migrant workers, delivery riders and other essential workers who are making personal sacrifices to keep Singapore going during this festive period.

“Many of our Malay, Indian and Eurasian friends will be working, covering for their Chinese colleagues. They deserve our heartfelt thanks,” said Mr Lee.

“I wish all Singaporeans good health, and a very happy Chinese New Year.”

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