4 mosques in Singapore that are doubling spaces for Friday prayers take additional Covid-19 precautions

Masjid Al-Istighfar is one of four mosques either adding additional entry or exit points or having staggered entrance and exit timings. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - Preparations are under way in four mosques to create more spaces for congregational prayers this Friday (Aug 7).

The extra precautions are needed to make sure that worshippers remain safe from Covid-19.

Masjid Assyafaah, Masjid Mujahidin, Masjid Al-Istighfar and Masjid Al-Iman will either be adding additional entry or exit points or have staggered entrance and exit timings, an Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) spokesman told The Straits Times on Tuesday.

This is to avoid the mixing of congregants from different zones and time slots, thereby reducing the risk of mass infection taking place during these prayer sessions, he added.

The Government announced on Monday that it would be easing some Covid-19 restrictions and allow 12 religious places to hold gatherings of up to 100 people.

This pilot test will apply only to congregational and worship services, effectively doubling the number of people these organisations are currently allowed to host at any one time.

This new move will result in new safe distancing measures, including the use of two separate zones of up to 50 people each at some of these places where seated or more structured services are held, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

These zones will have to be separated by a physical partition or barrier and must have separate entrances and exits or staggered entry and exit timings.

The four mosques in MCCY's pilot will each implement the ministry's dual zones for congregants and so open up 600 more places for the three prayer sessions this Friday.

Commenting on this development on Monday, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said in a Facebook post that while he was happy that more Muslims here will get to do their Friday prayers in the mosques, there is still a need to be careful in opening up such spaces, as the risk of community infection remains high.

"We can see how new waves of infections are happening around the world. I urge the community to remain resilient and patient, to follow the safe management measures that are in place and cooperate with the mosque officers and volunteers so that congregational prayers can be carried out smoothly, while minimising the risk of Covid-19 transmission," he said.

In a separate Facebook post on Tuesday, Muis said it has been receiving queries about why congregants could not make repeated bookings for Friday prayers.

When Muis first allowed congregants to book prayer slots online for sessions from June 26, it had stated that congregants would be allowed to only book one slot out of the three weeks.

And as the council added more spaces for the days after that, it said that it had stated very clearly that only those who had not yet obtained a slot before could register.

Muis will still prioritise those who have not yet had a chance to do their Friday prayers in a mosque since June 26, as this is still a large group.

"We will inform very clearly in our announcements when there are sufficient slots to allow for repeat registration," said Muis. "We hope this clarifies, and will bring relief to those who are still longing to perform Friday prayer in our beloved mosques but have not had a chance to do so."

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