Do not lay out trays of CNY goodies; practise strict hand hygiene during visits, say experts

SINGAPORE – Another Chinese New Year tradition is under threat this year – experts say people should not lay out trays of food for guests during home visits.

This is because this kind of communal eating increases the risk of spreading the coronavirus, said Professor Teo Yik Ying, dean of the Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health at the National University of Singapore.

“If someone (who’s infected) comes along and they talk over the food without their mask on, there will be droplets that are emitted and land on food items,” said Prof Teo.

If another person eats the food, that person could easily catch the virus, he said, adding: “There may be a need to individually portion out food for your guests.”

He suggested that hosts could also offer guests antiseptic wipes to clean their hands before they enter the home.

“That can be part of the Chinese New Year greeting,” he said jokingly.

Prof Teo also urged the public to continue observing good hand hygiene amid signs that people were dropping their guard.

He said: “When (hand sanitiser) first appeared (in grocery stores), many patrons were using it as they were paying. But now, I hardly see anyone using it when I do my weekly grocery shopping.”

Infectious disease expert Leong Hoe Nam, from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, is not overly concerned about infections being caught from surface areas, noting that the virus was less likely to survive on inanimate objects in Singapore’s hot and humid weather.

However, Dr Ling Li Min, an infectious disease specialist at Gleneagles Hospital, said that the risk remained, so it was crucial to practise strict hand hygiene.

“It’s not possible to keep cleaning every single doorknob or piece of furniture after each person stands up or sits down,” she added.

“If we have touched an external surface and are going to use our bare hands to put anything in our mouths, we should really wash our hands with soap and water or clean them with wipes.”

Dr Leong said that wearing a good quality surgical mask, except when eating or drinking, was another valuable precaution to follow during Chinese New Year.

He added: “Even when you’re playing mahjong, wear a mask. A properly worn mask is very effective in preventing transmission.”

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