SINGAPORE: Located in the Little India district, Masjid Angullia is one of Singapore's oldest mosques, having been established 130 years ago by merchant and philanthropist Mohammad Salleh Eusoff Angullia.
After closing its doors to worshippers for a two-year-long, S$6.3 million upgrading - which increased its capacity to 2,500 worshippers from 1,500 - the mosque reopened in February this year to much fanfare.
However, just a month later it was forced to suspend services once again, as all mosques across the island closed when it was discovered several congregants had contracted COVID-19 following a religious gathering in Malaysia.
Masjid Angullia manager Asheeq Jumahir said the staff had mixed feelings when they heard the news that they were to close once again, so soon after reopening.
"We were just opening up and our programmes were just kicking in, after two years of redevelopment absence," said the 40-year-old, who has been the mosque's manager since 2017.
This was especially since the holy fasting month of Ramadan was coming up, he added.
However, they realised the closure would be for the best to contain COVID-19 and prevent it from spreading among Masjid Angullia's congregants, which include foreign workers as well as senior citizens.
Like those of other mosques, Masjid Angullia's programmes went online, Mr Asheeq said, allowing the mosque to continue some of its services while still keeping worshippers safe.
An initial five-day closure for mosques to undergo cleaning was later extended to two weeks, with small spaces in 19 mosques opened to allow no more than 20 people to perform their afternoon prayers at one time.
This later became an indefinite closure as the number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Singapore spiked in late March.
PRECAUTIONARY MEASURES IN PLACE
Now, mosques here are preparing to welcome worshippers once again after having been closed for more than two months.
On May 27, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS), which oversees mosques here, announced several precautionary measures to be put into place to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
For example, from Jun 2 to Jun 7, mosques will only open between 1pm and 6pm.
Each mosque will have specially demarcated zones, to allow up to five individuals to perform their prayers at a distance of 2m from each other.
Some mosques, such as Masjid Angullia and Masjid Sultan, will also have family zones, where up to five individuals from the same household will be allowed to pray together.
Worshippers will have their temperatures taken before entry, have their NRICs or other identity documents scanned for registration through SafeEntry - Singapore's digital check-in contact tracing platform - and must wear a mask, even when praying.
They will also need to have a bag to keep their footwear, which must be brought along with them into the prayer area, as well as their own prayer mats and prayer garments.
Priority will be given to mobile essential workers who do not have workplaces where they can pray, such as delivery riders as well as taxi and private-hire drivers.
From Jun 8, most mosques will open for five daily prayers, while some mosques will continue to offer limited operating hours, with more details to be provided at a later date.
Daily communal prayers, as well as congregational Friday prayers, will not be conducted during the first phase of the post-circuit breaker period, in line with the national guidelines for places of worship.
These will be organised in later phases when the overall situation allows, MUIS said.
Masjid Angullia started its preparations for these precautionary measures last Friday (May 29), conducting additional works over the weekend.
It has taken the additional step of leasing a thermal scanner - similar to those found at Changi Airport as well as a number of other buildings in Singapore - which would allow the mosque to scan the temperature of more people despite its limited manpower.
This was something the mosque's board had approved even before Singapore's "circuit breaker" measures kicked in, to make its anti-coronavirus efforts more efficient, Mr Asheeq said.
Mr Asheeq said he anticipates some worshippers may not be aware of the new restrictions.
As such, signs have been put up to inform visitors of the requirements and mosque staff have also been trained to educate worshippers on what is expected of them.
"If you don't come in with a sejadah (prayer mat) or telekung (prayer garment), we're really sorry, we just got to tell you at the door (that you cannot enter)," he said.
"These are the rules and the guidelines that have been directed."
Only 64 of Singapore's 70 mosques will reopen between Jun 2 and Jun 7.
Of the remaining six, two mosques - Masjid Bencoolen and Masjid Abdul Gafoor - are undergoing upgrading works.
The other four - Masjid Ba'alwie, Masjid Burhani, Masjid Pulau Bukom and Masjid Temenggong Daeng Ibrahim - are expected to reopen in the later phases of Singapore's post-circuit breaker period.
READ: Singapore to exit circuit breaker on Jun 1, visiting of parents, places of worship allowed with restrictions
In a post on Instagram, Singapore's Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir said the "baby steps" towards a full reopening were part of efforts to protect local mosques.
"Let us give our full support and cooperation to our mosques and aspire to keep our mosques safe for everyone," said Dr Nazirudin.