Prosperity, travel and babies for the Year of the Tiger

A maximum of five visitors can be received by a household per day under the current restrictions and this will not change soon, Mr Lee said in his annual New Year’s address.

However, he urged his citizens to embrace the start of the New Year, saying it was the time to look for all things auspicious and have faith in the future. “I hope that marriage and birth numbers will come roaring back in the Year of the Tiger,” Mr Lee said. In the Chinese zodiac, the tiger represents strength and power.

In China, where the holiday started with New Year’s Eve on Monday, people have been travelling to their home-towns despite a government plea to stay where they are. Beijing is trying to contain coronavirus outbreaks ahead of the opening of the Winter Olympics on Friday, a high-profile prestige event.

Annual movement of humanity

The holiday is normally a massive annual movement of humanity as hundreds of millions of people who migrated for work visit their parents, and sometimes spouses and children, they left behind or travel abroad.

Some 260 million people travelled in the 10 days since the holiday rush which started two weeks ago, less than before the pandemic but up 46 per cent over last year, official data shows. The government forecasts a total of 1.2 billion trips during the holiday season, up 36 per cent from a year ago.

“I know we are encouraged to spend the New Year in Beijing, but I haven’t been back home for three years,” said Wang Yilei, whose home-town is Tangshan, east of the capital.

In south-east Asia, the International Monetary Fund estimates the ASEAN-5 economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines – grew by 3.1 per cent last year after shrinking by 2.4 per cent in 2020. Last week it shaved its forecast for the group this year by 0.2 of a percentage point to a still-healthy 5.6 per cent.

In Singapore, economists expect 2022 will be the year when conditions return to something approaching normal after two years of extremes. Fewer restrictions, high vaccination and booster rates, along with a recovering labour market and the restart of tourism, are all factors in a more stable outlook.

The city-state’s hard-hit services sector, which includes restaurants and bars, seems to be feeling the vibe. Business expectations for the next six months are not as bright as they were in October, when reopening was on track and there was no omicron in sight, but they are more positive than this time last year, according to the government’s latest survey.

If shopping is any guide, people are also feeling cheerier. Fresh food and flower markets were all packed at the weekend, the Orchard Road shopping district was jammed, and e-commerce giant Lazada reported a 40 per cent jump in the number of buyers compared to the same period a year ago.