Big turnout at Thaipusam

Stepped-up precautionary measures in the light of the coronavirus outbreak did little to dampen the fervour of thousands of Hindu devotees, who turned out to seek blessings and fulfil their vows at this year's Thaipusam festival.

The religious procession went on as usual, drawing some 11,500 devotees - the highest participation rate since 2013, in part helped by Thaipusam falling on a weekend. It began at 11.30pm last Friday and ended on Saturday at 11.30pm.

To the beat of drums and music, devotees carried milk pots as offerings or bore kavadis - structures of steel or wood - with sharp body piercings, accompanied by family and friends walking alongside them.

The annual procession was one of the first large-scale events to go ahead after Singapore raised its alert level from yellow to orange last Friday in response to the outbreak of the virus.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who was guest of honour at this year's celebration, joined devotees at Sri Srinivasa Perumal Temple in Serangoon Road on Saturday morning before proceeding to the end point, the Sri Thendayuthapani Temple in Tank Road.

Commenting on whether to continue with large-scale events, he spoke of the need to exercise judgment. "We have to make an assessment for each of the activities, whether it is indoor, whether it is outdoor," he said.

"It is not so much how many people are involved, but how are the people involved in those activities."

Minister for Communications and Information S. Iswaran said separately that, while the organisers had to put in place additional measures, devotees took them in their stride.

"That speaks well (that) our community has been responding in a calm way, responding to the advice being given," he said. "That is the spirit that we want to continue to emphasise."

Face masks were a rare sight at the event, with some onlooking tourists donning them.

Aircraft technician R. Subramaniyam, 54, who carried the kavadi for the 25th year, said he followed the precautions advised by the organisers.

"I took my temperature and checked that my family members did not have fever or cough," he said.

The Straits Times

 
 
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