COVID-19: 12 religious organisations will be allowed to hold services of up to 100 people as part of pilot

COVID-19: 12 religious organisations will be allowed to hold services of up to 100 people as part of pilot

Safe distancing measures at Al-Istighfar Mosque in Singapore for Friday prayers amid COVID-19
Safe distancing markings are seen at Al-Istighfar Mosque as a Muslim man arrives for Friday prayers amid the COVID-19 situation in Singapore on Jun 26, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) will start piloting an increase in the limit of worshippers for congregational and worship services - from 50 people to 100 people - on 12 religious organisations from Friday (Aug 7).  

The move is part of the gradual resumption of religious activities in Phase 2 of Singapore's circuit breaker reopening, said MCCY in a news release on Monday.

These 12 religious organisations will be allowed to accommodate up to 100 people at any one time for congregational and other worship services, with necessary precautions in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

READ: COVID-19 restrictions to further ease for weddings, funerals from Aug 4; more people allowed to attend

"The pilot sites reflect the diversity of religious practices and worship settings in Singapore," said the ministry, adding that the participating organisations "must have first safely conducted congregational and other worship services for up to 50 persons under the guidelines for Phase 2".

Religious organisations part of MCCY pilot
List of religious organisations participating in the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's pilot to increase the limit of people at congregational and other religious services. (Table: Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth)

Besides the prevailing safe management measures introduced at the start of Phase 2, organisations in this pilot will have to put in place additional precautions.

Nine of the 12 religious organisations - churches, mosques and gurdwaras - will have two zones of up to 50 people each for religious services and each zone has to be separated by a physical partition or barrier, said MCCY.

"In worship settings where religious services are structured or seated, these zones will help to minimise interactions between worshippers," said the ministry. 

"To avoid interaction between worshippers across zones, there should also be separate entrances and exits or staggered entry and exit timings for each zone." 

These places are: Masjid Assyafaah, Masjid Mujahidin, Masjid Al-Istighfar, Masjid Al-Iman, St Andrew’s Cathedral, Jurong Christian Church, Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church, Sengkang Methodist Church and Central Sikh Temple.

For Buddhist, Taoist and Hindu temples, MCCY said safe management measures should ensure that "no crowding or bunching of worshippers at common areas and in the prayer halls, no mingling between groups, and safe distancing between worshippers".

MUIS: ADDITIONAL 600 PLACES FOR FRIDAY PRAYERS

In response to the announcement, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said it is now able to offer an additional 600 places for Friday prayers from Aug 7 in four mosques: Masjid Assyafaah, Masjid Mujahidin, Masjid Al-Istighfar and Masjid Al-Iman. 

Each mosque will also continue to offer three Friday prayer sessions and priority will be given to Muslims who have not yet been able to secure a prayer slot since the reopening of mosques on Jun 26.

"As such, for the time being, registration will only be allowed for those who have not been able perform Friday prayers in the mosque since the closure of mosques in March 2020," MUIS added.

"Congregants who managed to obtain a slot for the recent Hari Raya prayers but have not managed to get a slot for Friday prayers may register."

The remaining 61 mosques currently offering congregational prayer will continue to operate one zone, of up to 50 people at one time, for each session of Friday prayer.

READ: COVID-19: Singapore must be prepared for second wave of infections, ‘preventable’ if everyone plays their part, says Gan Kim Yong

PREVAILING GUIDELINES APPLY

All worshippers must continue to keep a 1m safe distance with others if worshipping individually, or they may worship in groups of no more than five people and keep a safe distance between groups.

Worship services must be kept "as short a duration as possible", said the ministry, adding that everyone present must wear a face mask at all times. 

Singing and other live performances are not permitted during the worship service and there should be no sharing of prayer and other common items in a religious service, said MCCY. 

"Places of worship with reduced air circulation should, where possible, open doors and windows to naturally ventilate the space after use."

READ: Worship services may resume with up to 50 people at a time in Phase 2 of Singapore's reopening

The organisations participating in this pilot must submit their updated safe management plans to the ministry at least three days before commencing the pilot. 

The ministry added it would assess how well these places implement the required safe management measures before deciding on whether to increase the limit on the number of worshippers for other religious organisations.

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Source: CNA/kv(ta)

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