SINGAPORE: Cinema operators as well as mosques and at least two churches plan to limit the number of people at worship services and movie screenings to 100 attendees, in order to meet new COVID-19 requirements and avoid having to implement pre-event testing.
This comes after the Ministry of Health (MOH) announced on Tuesday (May 4) several measures to stem a recent rise of COVID-19 cases in the community.
The tighter measures - which will be in place for about three weeks from May 8 - include testing requirements for cinemas and congregational and worship services with more than 100 attendees at any one time. There is no change to the cap of 250 attendees.
Attendees who undergo pre-event testing, which can be in the form of an Antigen Rapid Test (ART) or Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, must produce a negative result before being allowed to enter the venue.
Pre-event testing helps to reduce the risk of infected individuals transmitting the virus to other people at the event, said MOH on its website. This minimises the likelihood of an outbreak occurring at events, businesses or activities.
Pre-event testing has been piloted from October last year at meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions (MICE) and live sports events in Singapore.
READ: Cap of 5 people for social gatherings, household visits to return as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures
CHURCHES, MOSQUES TO SCALE BACK SERVICES TO 100 PEOPLE
Up to 250 people have been allowed back at places of worship since Dec 28 last year, when Singapore entered Phase 3 of its reopening.
The Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church at Upper East Coast Road said it currently holds two services with more than 100 attendees each week. It does not "intend to conduct any pre-event testing for the time being", a spokesperson told CNA.
"We have merely limited the number of congregants to 100 people per service with effect this Sunday," said the spokesperson.
The church has reached out to its congregants regarding this new requirement, but said it will "need a few Sundays to observe their response".
"So far, (there has been) no major reaction," the spokesperson said.
Ultimately, the spokesperson said it is not feasible for the church to introduce pre-event testing, and that its services can also be conducted virtually.
"We understand that the pre-event testing is a massive thing and we don’t have the required manpower to operate," the spokesperson added. "Moreover the cost can be about S$50 per person per event."
Likewise, the Heart of God Church in Eunos said it also plans to limit its worship services to 100 people and is "now looking into ways of making 250-person services possible".
"We understand that heightened alert is necessary in the fight against COVID-19," Pastor Charleston Lim told CNA.
"Our in-person and online worship services run by youths give us the flexibility to align with updated community measures quickly."
In a media release on Wednesday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) said it will scale back each congregational prayer session to 100 persons from May 8.
It also said that it will study the feasibility of implementing pre-event testing procedures at mosques, "given the cost and operational considerations involved, to allow for larger congregational prayers".
PRE-EVENT TESTING "NOT COMMERCIALLY VIABLE": CATHAY CINEPLEXES
As for cinemas, a Cathay Cineplexes spokesperson told CNA that 25 out of its 64 halls across eight outlets can hold more than 100 guests with safe distancing.
It was earlier announced that from Apr 24, cinemas would be able to accommodate up to 250 guests, up from 50 patrons per hall during when they first re-opened.
"Attendance is usually dependent on the content and we do see an increase in occupancy rate whenever there is a blockbuster release," a Cathay spokesperson said.
But following Tuesday's announcement, the cinema operator said it will not allow more than 100 guests per hall and is already updating its seating capacities across all halls to adhere to the new requirement.
"Therefore, we will not have any screenings with the required pre-event testing," the spokesperson said.
"Having gone through even stricter measures during Phase 2 when we reopened last year, we feel that Cathay Cineplexes are well-adjusted to managing the new seating capacities and safety measures that have been announced."
When asked about the decision to not implement pre-event testing, the spokesperson said that it is "not a commercially viable option" because of the additional costs involved and "huge inconvenience caused to our guests".
"We believe that the measures are implemented to keep our guests safe, and will adhere to the recommended restrictions," the spokesperson added.
A Golden Village spokesperson told CNA that it will also introduce a 100-patron limit per screening so guests do not need to go for pre-event testing.
Since Golden Village resumed services, it has always operated below 50 per cent capacity, the spokesperson said.
"Whilst it is undeniable that the latest announcement would see a decrease in our overall seating capacity, Golden Village strives to mitigate such challenges," the spokesperson added.
"The safety of our patrons is our main priority and we will work closely with the authorities to ensure that our cinemas remain safe for all of them."