As the Mid-Autumn Festival which falls on Oct. 1 this year approaches, residents in Singapore find they will be celebrating a holiday differently from previous years due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Mooncakes are a must in celebrating the festival, especially for those of Chinese origin, who constitute three fourths of Singapore’s total population. Mrs. Fong originating from Hong Kong went to a shopping center on Singapore’s Orchard Road last week to buy a Hong Kong-brand mooncake.
To her surprise, there were only the mooncakes which need to be refrigerated and no more those that can be kept under room temperatures.
Mooncake scarcity is also reported with some locally-baked Singapore brands. A browse through the local online shopping website RedMart shows that of the total 39 mooncake items, 25 have already sold out Wednesday. Moreover, some of those still on shelf are filling pastes for mooncakes instead of the mooncakes themselves.
The local media attributes this to the producers lessening ingredients resourcing for fear that customers might not have strong desire to consume in wake of COVID-19. On the other hand, Singaporeans can’t travel to Malaysia to spend money on mooncakes because of the border restrictions imposed to contain COVID-19, and as a result raising the demand for mooncakes available here.
Even though there are still lantern shows at such places like Chinatown and Gardens by the Bay, other celebrative activities have all moved online, like the community gathering, teaching of moon-making or lantern-making, story-telling and performances. Viewers can also stay at home to have a virtual enjoyment of the lanterns displayed elsewhere.
Even the on-site lantern visits would be different. Management of the Gardens by the Bay reminds visitors of the social distancing measures so as to create a safe environment for all to enjoy the lanterns. They are to wear a mask at all times, including during photo taking, and to keep a safe distance of one meter between each other, especially in queues.
A pedestrian walks past festive lanterns lit up for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival at the Chinatown of Singapore, Sept. 29, 2020. (Photo by Then Chih Wey/Xinhua)
Mid-Autumn Festival is an important occasion for family reunion. This year when travelling abroad on business becomes difficult and working at home a lot for many working parents, family members certainly find more time staying together. However, if family members like to dine out on the Mid-Autumm Festival or go out to enjoy the lanterns, they must limit the group size of no more than five people.
According to official figures published on Sept. 24, the number of Singaporeans living overseas has declined from last year’s 217,000 to this year’s 204,000, as more and more Singaporeans choose to return to their homeland in face of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is another sort of reunion with their families and friends.
This long-exposure photo shows festive lanterns lit up for the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival at the Chinatown of Singapore, Sept. 29, 2020. (Photo by Then Chih Wey/Xinhua)
For this year’s Mid-Autumn Festival, local residents will lack the company of international visitors, as for the time being, short-term visitors are not allowed entry into Singapore, except for those coming in under the Green or Fast Lane arrangements, the Air Travel Pass or with special prior approval.
The tourism sector in 2019 achieved record highs in International Visitor Arrivals (IVA) and Tourism Receipts (TR) for the fourth consecutive year. From January to December 2019, IVA increased to 19.1 million visitors and TR reached 27.7 billion Singapore dollars (about 20.4 billion U.S. dollars), according to statistics released by the Singapore Tourism Board.
In comparison, IVA declined 43.2 percent in the first quarter this year over the same period last year to reach 2.7 million visitors. Meanwhile, TR reached 4 billion Singapore dollars (2.94 billion U.S. dollars), a decline of 39 percent compared to the same period last year.
In order to boost the local tourism industry in the city-state, the Singaporean government announced a total of 320 million Singapore dollars in SingapoRediscovers Vouchers last month for a Rediscover Singapore campaigning. It was disclosed earlier this month that Singaporeans aged 18 and above this year will each receive 100 Singapore dollars in digital vouchers to spend on staycations, tickets to leisure attractions and local tours, which would enable local residents to enjoy acting as tourists at home. (1 Singapore dollar equals 0.73 U.S. dollars)