In his annual Chinese New Year message, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminded everyone about exercising social responsibility during the festive period and as marriages have returned to pre-pandemic levels, he hoped that marriage and birth numbers will come roaring back in the Year of the Tiger.
Tomorrow night, we will gather with our loved ones to send off the Year of the Ox and usher in the Year of the Tiger. Some of us will celebrate with our families, while others will get together with friends and neighbours who have become family. This is the essence of Chinese New Year, which is about our families and loved ones. We share our joys and celebrate with them in good times, and look to them for support and comfort during difficult periods.
Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, families have been unable to get together as much as we would have liked, especially those with loved ones abroad. With Vaccinated Travel Lanes opened and international travel progressively resuming, hopefully more families can reunite and celebrate Chinese New Year together this year. Large gatherings will have to wait a little longer, as the Omicron variant has forced us to maintain strict measures. But I know many of us have done our best to adapt, and learnt to stay connected through the internet. Many families will be organising virtual meetups effortlessly at the touch of a button, and livening them up with online fun and games. Look out for the “uncles” and “aunties” who have become experts at snapping virtual wefies!
Even as we gather and celebrate in the festive period, we must continue to exercise social responsibility and take precautions. After all, we care for our loved ones by keeping them safe. Please remember to adhere to safe management measures, and keep up basic hygiene practices such as washing hands and using common utensils when sharing food. If you feel under the weather please stay at home, isolate yourself and get ample rest, just in case you are infected. There will be ample time to catch up on New Year visiting after you recover.
Getting vaccinated is another important way to keep our families safe. We started vaccinating children aged 5 to 11 at the turn of the year and have seen a good response. If your child still has not gotten his jab, please take him to the nearest vaccination centre soon. Vaccinations are safe and effective. They reduce your chances of contracting Covid-19, and more importantly greatly lower the risk of serious complications, including for the Omicron variant. This is true for everyone – not just young children and teenagers, but also and especially the frail and the elderly. So please encourage all your family members, young or old, to get vaccinated, and get booster shots when eligible. It is both for their own protection, and to protect others.
Chinese New Year is also a time to look out for all things auspicious. While Covid-19 initially caused a dip in the number of weddings, I am glad many couples have since gone ahead with their plans. After two years of Covid-19, marriages in Singapore have “caught up” and returned to pre-pandemic levels. Birth numbers have fallen slightly, but not as much as we had feared. Covid-19 or not, parents and grandparents still greatly look forward to welcoming new arrivals. The infants bring joy and warmth to the whole family, and carry our hopes and dreams for a brighter tomorrow.
The Government strongly supports Singaporeans who want to start and raise families. The Baby Support Grant, which provides parents some financial relief during the pandemic, is just one example. I hope that marriage and birth numbers will come roaring back in the Year of the Tiger.
In the new year, let us work together to resolutely overcome the pandemic with the strength of the Tiger, and seize new opportunities to build a better Singapore with the boldness of the beast.
I wish all Singaporeans good health, and a very happy Chinese New Year.
Cover photo credit: MCI