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Enhanced precautionary measures for religious organisations under tightened COVID-19 measures

Enhanced precautionary measures for religious organisations under tightened COVID-19 measures

File photo of a woman praying. (Photo: Pexels)

SINGAPORE: People fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and those who produce an exemption notice will be able to take part in worship services with more than 100 people without pre-event testing.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) released on Wednesday (May 5) more details about the enhanced precautionary measures for religious organisations.

The COVID-19 multi-ministry task force announced on Tuesday the tightened community measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

PRE-EVENT TESTING FOR WORSHIP SERVICES

No singing by worshippers will be allowed. Services have to be kept to as short a duration as possible, without reception or mingling between worshippers.

Worshippers can participate in worship services in groups of no more than five people, down from the current limit of eight.

The capacity for congregational and other worship services without the need for pre-event testing will be decreased from 250 people to 100 people. This excludes religious and supporting workers.

READ: Possibility of circuit breaker ‘not ruled out’ as COVID-19 task force announces tighter measures

Pre-event testing is required for congregational and other worship services involving more than 100 people. These services may only have up to 250 people, separated into zones of 50 people each.

For services with more than 100 people, all worshippers must be tested. They must present a valid negative COVID-19 test result before being admitted into the service venues.

The test must be approved by the Ministry of Health (MOH) - either an antigen rapid test or polymerase chain reaction test administered by an approved test provider.

The results are only valid for 24 hours from the time an individual registers at the testing premises to take the test. The religious organisation must ensure that the result of the test is valid until the end of the worshipper’s participation in the worship service, said MCCY.

The requirements for pre-event testing do not apply to worshippers who have been fully vaccinated, or to those who produce an exemption notice before being admitted into the venue.

"Before being admitted into the venue where the service is being held, the worshipper must produce valid documentation of either their vaccination or exemption notice which must remain valid until the end of the worshipper’s participation in the service," said MCCY.

Where pre-event testing is required for a service, religious organisations must display signs at each point of entry and exit to indicate that the venue is a restricted place, the duration for which it is a restricted place, and with the boundaries clearly marked.

The signs must indicate that only individuals with a cleared status can be allowed to enter and remain.

There should be no mingling of individuals across zones of 50 people, and each zone must be completely separate from another by either a physical solid partition of at least 1.8m tall, or floor to ceiling, or at least 3m physical spacing demarcated by continuous physical barriers.

All worshippers aged six and above should keep their masks on.

Services should be kept to as short a duration as possible, said MCCY, adding that up to 30 people are allowed to be involved in/support the conduct of the service. This includes people on stage, backstage or off stage.

From May 8, people involved in/supporting the conduct of the worship service will not be allowed to sing while masked, added the ministry.

READ: Cap of 5 people for social gatherings, household visits to return as Singapore tightens COVID-19 measures

READ: Singapore returns to tighter COVID-19 measures: What's allowed under the new rules?

There should be no sharing of prayer and other common items, such as holy books, passing of offertory baskets and prayer mats, as this increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Worshippers are to bring along their personal prayer items instead, where required.

Places of worship with reduced air circulation, such as enclosed prayer spaces and air-conditioned worship halls should, where possible, open doors and windows to naturally ventilate the space after each use.

Religious organisations conducting congregational and other worship services for 100 people or fewer will also be required to deploy the SafeEntry Gateway at their main entrances by Jun 15.

MARRIAGE SOLEMNISATIONS

For places of worship used to conduct marriage solemnisations without pre-event testing, up to 50 attendees will be allowed, down from 100. Between 51 and 250 attendees will be allowed for solemnisations with pre-event testing for the wedding couple.

Those attending must still be segregated into zones of up to 50 people each, with no mingling between zones.

Attendees must maintain a 1m safe distance between groups, except a core “wedding party”, which is allowed to comprise up to 20 people, including the couple and their two witnesses. 

"There must not be any reception with food and drinks, or wedding celebrations that are not essential religious rites," said MCCY.

FUNERALS

Funerals, wakes, installation of niches and post-funeral rites at places of worship can involve not more than 30 attendees at any time, including the day of burial or cremation and in groups of no more than five people. 

This excludes religious and supporting workers, whose numbers should be kept to a minimum, said MCCY. There must not be any reception with food and drinks.

Visits to columbaria at places of worship should be kept as short as possible, with no mingling between groups of no more than five people, down from eight people.

For religious classes, class sizes must not exceed 50 people, including the religious worker/teacher and supporting workers, if any. Each group must be limited to five people.

With the exception of worship services, all other activities, such as funerals and other religious activities can continue to take place concurrently at the place of worship.

READ: Mandatory TraceTogether-only SafeEntry brought forward to May 17

READ: 5 COVID-19 cases in Tan Tock Seng Hospital cluster have Indian variant of coronavirus

However, this is subject to a cap of 150 worshippers on the premises at any one time, excluding the religious and supporting workers.

Religious organisations can conduct congregational and other worship services with pre-event testing for 250 persons, with no more than an additional 150 worshippers participating in other permitted activities on the premises at the same time.

For example, if there are 250 people attending a worship service, as well as two religious classes involving 50 people each, there can be at most another 50 people taking part in other permitted religious activities at the same time.

Respective caps on the individual activities will continue to apply.

"Religious organisations are strongly encouraged to support the religious needs of their communities through remote means, as far as possible, in line with national guidelines to reduce social interactions, and thus minimise risk of COVID-19 transmission," said MCCY.

Religious organisations must acknowledge the new conditions for religious activities imposed from May 8 through May 30 before commencing the activities.

"MCCY reserves the right to suspend a religious organisation’s activities if there are gaps in the safe management plans submitted and until the necessary rectifications are made," said the ministry. 

"Religious organisations are responsible for the implementation of safe management measures and action could be taken for lapses and breaches. 

"Should there be any confirmed COVID-19 cases linked to a religious organisation’s premises or place of worship, the premises may be closed for a period of time as determined by the authorities."


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Source: CNA/ic

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