Hundreds queue to enter Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on first day of reopening

SINGAPORE – Hundreds of devotees queued to enter the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple in Waterloo Street on Monday (Feb 15) to offer their prayers and seek blessings for Chinese New Year when it reopened after three days of closure to prevent crowding.

For the safety of devotees, the temple temporarily closed on Chinese New Year’s Eve last Thursday after 5,000 people turned up for the annual incense offerings and to pay their respects.

Devotees were seen observing safe distancing throughout Monday when the temple reopened at 7am.

When The Straits Times visited the popular temple for devotees of Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy, on Monday afternoon, there were 500 people in the orderly queue waiting to enter.

The crowd had already dwindled from the thousands that stood in line on Monday morning, as reported earlier by Chinese newspaper Shin Min Daily News.

Certis Cisco officers were deployed to remind those in the queue to stand 1m apart from one another. Those entering the temple had to check in using SafeEntry or TraceTogether tokens.

Even as thunder rumbled in the distance and the skies darkened, devotees stayed in the queue, as they wanted to honour the tradition of offering prayers during Chinese New Year. While Covid-19 was on the minds of some, they were also reassured by the safe management measures in place.

Retiree Andrew Teo, 72, who has been visiting the temple for 40 years, said: “Every time I come and pray, the goddess will answer my prayers. Nothing (bad) will happen to people who come here to pray. I don’t believe there will be a cluster.”

Mr Bill Dam, 42, was also there with his 10-year-old son and 76-year-old mother to make offerings.

“We usually go on the second day of Chinese New Year. Every year, we want to have a good beginning,” said Mr Dam, a senior manager at a printing company. He had taken leave from work to visit the temple.

Although he was confident that other devotees were adhering to the safe management measures, Mr Dam reminded his elderly mother to sit down and wait until it was their turn to enter.

“She wants to queue but she’s older so (we) take precautions,” he added.

Devotees pray in front of the temple on Monday afternoon. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Another devotee, who wanted to be known only as Ms Ng, said she was not worried, as only 50 people are allowed into the temple at any point in time.

“There are people who have flu and don’t see the doctor. You have asymptomatic cases. You can’t escape the virus completely unless you don’t leave your house,” the admin executive who is in her 50s said.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam from the Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital said the risk of transmission is low if safe distancing was kept and people wore their masks properly.

But he cautioned: “Any zealous group gathering can be the site for a super-spreader event. Crowds are an invitation for the virus to infect many at the same time.”

Only 50 people were allowed into the temple at any point in time. ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho temple opens from Monday to Friday, from 7am to 6.30pm, with the last entry at 6.15pm.

Although they were too late to join the queue, Ms Karen Liew, 36, and Mr Justin Yee, 39, prayed outside the temple.

Ms Liew, a graphic designer, is five months pregnant with the couple’s first child.

“We have been married for five years. Last year, we went to Guan Yin Ma and asked her to give us a child. We passed by and decided to just thank her,” said Mr Yee who works in multimedia design.

“Even if we can’t enter, she will see our sincerity,” said Ms Liew.

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