Joy Marie Lim
With the Lunar New Year approaching, many of us are looking forward to ringing it in with our loved ones. This usually means catching up with family from different households, sharing festive treats, and merry making. While we adhere to the new guidelines for CNY visiting, such as only being able to receive 8 different guests each day, and having to limit visits to just 2 different households, we have to look at different ways of keeping the festive mood alive, while staying safe. Read on to find out how.
Our hands are one of the main channels of microbial transfer, so do get your guests to disinfect their hands before entering your home. Doing so can help protect your family and guests from bringing germs in. You may also consider asking your guests to wash their hands before starting the festivities proper. With everyone living in this new 'COVID-19 normal', they are likely to be understanding, especially if you have vulnerable folks at home.
Lunar New Year treats are typically offered in large communal bowls or containers for sharing. This year, play it safe by packing sweet treats individually, and serve the savoury tarts and snacks in small portions on plates. This would help to lessen the spread of germs through food.
Ah, the red packets that got us all excited every year. Traditionally, angbaos or red packets are symbols that convey our well-wishes and good luck to the recipient. But it can also be a source of microbial transfer – it's an item that's passed from one person to another, after all. Do wash your hands thoroughly before packing them or giving them out.
This year, consider going digital with e-angbaos! That's less contact which reduces the spread of germs. Apps like PayLah, PayNow and GooglePay make this easy. Simply download your preferred app, ensure that you have enough balance, create an e-angbao, and you're all set to bless away!
Doing this can help to reduce risk of infection because diseases are more likely to spread in spaces with stagnant air, as compared to spaces with good air flow. Open windows and doors to enhance air flow. To keep your guests comfortable, consider setting up additional fans around the home.
Shoes can be a vector for the transmission of germs. If you're concerned about shoe theft, this is a good reason to keep the main door open.
It is common in Chinese culture to eat directly from a communal dish. However, it's best to change this practice of sharing food, at least for now, as germs can be transmitted by saliva. Use serving utensils to dish out individual servings of foods from the communal plate to minimise the risk of contamination. This includes ladles for soup, chopsticks for lohei, and a fork or spoon for dishes.
As you may know by now, there's a new guideline in town – no shouting when tossing yusheng. While this is mainly meant to be enforced in public eating spaces, it's a good measure to practice at home too. You can be creative with your lohei. For example, netizens in Singapore have suggested pre-recording auspicious phrases, and then playing them while the yusheng gets tossed!
When our relatives visit us, we're probably going to ply them with lots of goodies – which means waste gets generated from wrappers, straws, melon seed husks, and used tissue paper. Much of these will be laced with saliva – a carrier of germs – so it's best to get rid of them whenever you can. Fill your relatives' bellies with good food, but don't let the waste pile up!
It's not enough to clean off dirt and dust with plain water. We need to disinfect our homes, which means killing all germs on surfaces. This can be done with disinfecting agents such as sprays and wipes. While it may not be feasible to clean your entire home after each guest leaves, you can disinfect high-touch contact points in the room. These refer to the surfaces that are more prone to being touched, such as your doorbell, doorknobs, table tops, the main sitting area and bathroom. At the end of the day, you can give your home a more thorough clean-up to get ready for the next day!
You're likely to have many new mandarin oranges with you at the end of the day, thanks to the traditional custom of exchanging mandarins as a symbol of good fortune. Don't forget to wash them at the end of the day, so that you can indulge in those juicy delights anytime, as safely as possible!
That said, we also recognise that some of these tips may require us to adjust practices we are used to, such as sharing food, not "sweeping luck out of the home", and more. But with the threat of COVID-19 looming over the horizon, let's err on the side of caution – while keeping the festive mood alive, of course. Happy Lunar New Year!