SINGAPORE - All 70 mosques in Singapore will be closed for five days for cleaning from Friday (March 13) and no congregational prayers will be held on that day, as a preventive measure to curb the spread of the coronavirus following the infection of two Singaporeans who attended a mass religious gathering in Selangor, Malaysia.
Around 90 Singaporeans had attended the gathering in late February, and some of them are frequent congregants of some local mosques.
To prevent a sizeable cluster of Covid-19 cases from emerging, all mosques will be closed temporarily, the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis) said on Thursday.
The council added that four mosques here have already been closed for cleaning. They are the Jamae Chulia mosque in South Bridge Road, Al Muttaqin mosque in Ang Mo Kio, Hajjah Fatimah mosque in Beach Road, and Kassim mosque in Changi Road.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said the four mosques had been identified as mosques where a participant at the gathering, who has been confirmed to be infected, had frequented on his return.
Mr Masagos, who is also Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, said the decision to close all mosques in Singapore was made because of the need to protect the community, especially worshippers like the elderly who are more vulnerable and at greater risk.
"We need to protect ourselves, our community and our loved ones. And more so knowing the impact, the effects of Covid-19 on the seniors and the elderly," he said.
"As we know, many of the people who come to the mosque are retired, senior people, and therefore we think it's important to - for the moment - prevent such big congregations in our mosques."
Muis added on Thursday that all mosque activities, such as lectures and religious classes, will be cancelled until March 27.
A review will be conducted on March 16 on the state of hygiene and cleanliness at the mosques before the order to reopen them is given.
Muis said that communal activities such as congregational prayers may expose congregants to transmission of the virus by unsuspecting infected individuals.
The Fatwa Committee, chaired by Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, which gives religious guidance to Muslims here, has allowed the closing of mosques and suspension of Friday prayers where the need arises in the interest of public health and safety.
"The fatwa committee has looked at this from many angles and have issued a fatwa to allow for the closure of mosques, as well as the suspension of congregational prayers, daily prayers and including Friday prayers, where the need arises... when it is very important for us to continue to protect society and protect the vulnerable," Dr Nazirudin said.
"Muslims should perform their regular noon (zuhur) prayers in place of the congregational prayers," said Muis in a statement, adding that in place of the regular Friday sermon, messages on religious guidance will be made available online.
Earlier on Thursday, Mr Masagos said on Facebook that the Ministry of Health is in the midst of identifying and investigating the Singaporeans who had attended the gathering, which took place at the Seri Petaling Mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur from Feb 27 to March 1, and involved around 10,000 people from several countries.
They are believed to be devotees of the Tablighi Jama'at movement, a Muslim missionary movement started in India in the late 1920s and is known as Jemaah Tabligh in Malaysia and Singapore. According to Brunei's Health Ministry, all 11 cases of the coronavirus in the country as of Wednesday have been traced back to this gathering.
The Malaysian authorities are now tracking the roughly 5,000 Malaysians who had attended the event. It believes that the tabligh event in Kuala Lumpur had involved an estimated 10,000 people from several countries.
At the press conference on Thursday, Mr Masagos said Singapore should continue to do what is best for Singaporeans.
"We should follow what we need for Singapore, and what we need for Singaporeans. We're not just protecting Muslims, we're protecting the nation," he added.