Smaller crowds for Qing Ming Festival at Mandai Columbarium
Many visitors at Mandai Columbarium praise crowd control measures and hope they continue even after pandemic
It was not the usual first day of the Qing Ming Festival, with few large crowds at the Mandai Columbarium this year.
Each level of the eight blocks had about 10 people or fewer, with many families well spaced out and no big groups of people when The Straits Times visited at around 1pm yesterday.
But there was a crowd at Block I at around 2.30pm, with officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) reminding visitors to put on their masks properly.
Still, those at the columbarium said the situation this year was unlike pre-pandemic times, when the walkways were packed with families, especially on the first day of the annual Chinese tomb-sweeping festival.
Mr Wilis Ho, 49, who was with his son, was surprised at the numbers there this year.
He said: "It used to be very packed with big groups of people moving around. Social distancing would definitely be a problem in previous years."
Many people, including Mr Ho, did not visit the columbarium last year because of the uncertainty as infections rose.
Mr Ho, who works in the IT industry, said that for this year, the systems put in place to control crowds have helped greatly in keeping the number of visitors small.
NEA said visitors driving to Mandai Columbarium during peak periods such as on weekends are required to register their vehicles with valid e-appointments.
This is the first time that such a system has been put in place.
Visitors were also told to minimise the family size visiting to two people a household, and to avoid crowding around the prayer and joss paper burning areas at the columbarium.
In a Facebook post yesterday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said residents had told him during his market walkabout on Saturday that they were offering prayers at home instead.
He added: "They were buying incense and joss paper, and also marketing to prepare a spread of home-cooked food offerings."
Most of those who visited the Mandai Columbarium yesterday were pleased with the new arrangement and believed that safety management measures should continue even after Covid-19. They said that in previous years, there was hardly space to move around and families were standing back to back in the narrow corridors.
Sales executive Yap Teck Khim, 53, who carpooled with his siblings to the facility, said: "We booked a slot the moment the bookings opened because we expected huge crowds. But I am very happy that the experience was very orderly. I think this system should really continue because it helps to manage the people here."