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Singapore’s catholic churches to stay closed from June 2, mosques and gurdwaras to reopen with strict measures

Jummah prayer at Baitul Mukarram National Mosque on Friday, May 8, 2020 Mahmud Hossain Opu. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SINGAPORE, May 28, 2020, Today. The Catholic Church in Singapore will stay closed to private worship even after circuit breaker rules are eased from June 2, while mosques are set to reopen gradually with limited operating hours for a start, Today reported.

Gurdwaras — where Sikhs worship — will also open for private worship from June 2, with safe distancing precautions and an online booking application to manage the flow of worshippers. 

The Government announced last week that places of worship may reopen for private worship from June 2, with a cap of five members from the same household praying together at any time.

In an advisory this week, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said that a maximum of five households will be allowed in a place of worship at any time, with no interaction permitted among worshippers from different households. Places of worship must also ensure that queues do not form, and worshippers, religious workers and staff members keep a safe distance from one another.

Singapore is set to resume some activities from June 2 after an eight-week circuit breaker to stem the spread of Covid-19. This will happen in three stages.

Archbishop William Goh, the head of the Catholic Church here, said that the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore noted the Government’s cautious stance, studied the restrictions and requirements, and consulted a number of parish priests.

Since its 32 Catholic churches are not allowed to engage volunteers, it will be “very difficult” to fully comply with the Government’s strict conditions for the resumption of activities, he said in a statement published on the archdiocese’s website on Wednesday (May 27).

“Hence, our churches will reluctantly remain closed to private worship during this (first) phase,” he said. “We have to err on the side of caution out of pastoral responsibility.”

He noted that during the first phase — which is expected to last at least four weeks — Catholic churches can conduct wedding solemnisations and funeral services that adhere to government rules. Parishes have also set up online platforms for activities such as pastoral care and fellowship.

National Development Minister Lawrence Wong, who co-chairs a task force spearheading the country’s fight against Covid-19, said this week that Singapore could move to the second phase of reopening around the end of June. This phase will see the gradual resumption of more activities, such as small-group social activities.

Archbishop Goh said that the Archdiocese looks forward to opening its churches for private worship and other activities during this phase, especially when some requirements are relaxed that will allow it to rope in volunteer parishioners to roll out safety measures. 

The Catholic Church is also working to introduce a digital system for Mass attendance registration and other public health safeguards in anticipation of reopening, he added. 

MOSQUES TO REOPEN GRADUALLY

 

For mosques, they will reopen gradually from June 2.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said that for a start, from June 2 to 7, mosques will open with limited operating hours from 1pm to 6pm. 

And from June 8, most mosques will allow individual worship for the five daily prayers. Some mosques will, however, continue to have limited operating hours, Muis said. 

Mosques will not organise congregational prayers — including Friday prayers — in line with national guidelines. These will instead happen at a later stage when the situation allows.

In the first phase of reopening, Muis said that limited prayer spaces will be provided. Up to five prayer zones will be demarcated, with each zone accommodating up to five people from the same household. 

Given the limited prayer spaces, it urged worshippers to give priority to those whose jobs are in essential services — such as delivery crew as well as drivers of private-hire vehicles and taxis — to perform their prayers. “We also urge other members of the community who can perform their worship at home to continue to do so.”

It discouraged vulnerable groups such as seniors and young children from visiting the mosques.

In addition to regularly disinfecting common spaces, mosques have put in place physical checks, temperature-taking and the digital SafeEntry system, which logs visitors’ entries and exits to aid contact tracing. 

They will also roll out safe-distancing measures by way of distinct zones or marked spaces for worshippers from different households. 

Those visiting mosques must also take precautions, such as wearing face masks, bringing their own prayer items such as mats, and avoiding interactions with others. They must bring their identity cards or scannable personal identification documents to use the SafeEntry system.

As coronavirus transmission rates ease in the community, Muis said mosques will gradually relax protective measures to allow more people in safely, as well as increase the variety of activities.

But it warned that measures may be tightened again if the national situation worsens.

“We urge the community to work closely with mosque leaders to continue to curb the spread of the virus by adopting the necessary precautions when visiting our mosques, and to visit mosques during this period only when necessary.” 

Mosque services continue to be available to the public during this period, including via online channels. 

ONLINE BOOKING APP FOR GURDWARAS

Separately, gurdwaras will welcome Sikh devotees from June 2 for private worship, with precautions including safe distancing and temperature checks. 

A spokesperson for the Sikh Advisory Board told TODAY that the gurdwaras would also use an online booking app to manage the flow of people. The system will prevent queues from forming as well, said the spokesperson.

Each household may book a 15-minute worship slot.

Those who show up without a booking will have to queue and observe safe distancing before entering the premises.

Holding areas may also be used to stagger the flow of people into the main prayer hall, the spokesperson said.

ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY LENA LOKE

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