All religious organisations can host up to 100 for services

Church staff putting up temporary boards at St Andrew's Cathedral last month to prepare for reopening for a weekend service. The church was among some religious organisations which were allowed to hold gatherings of up to 100 people under a pilot sch
Church staff putting up temporary boards at St Andrew's Cathedral last month to prepare for reopening for a weekend service. The church was among some religious organisations which were allowed to hold gatherings of up to 100 people under a pilot scheme which started on Aug 7.ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

From Oct 3, all religious organisations will be allowed to conduct congregational and other worship services for up to 100 people, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong announced yesterday.

This is double the limit for services held by most religious organisations currently.

Organisations will still have to ensure that safe distancing and safe management measures are in place when such services resume.

Currently, only some religious organisations - which include some mosques, churches and Hindu and Buddhist temples - are allowed to hold gatherings of up to 100 people, under a pilot scheme started by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on Aug 7.

The organisations chosen were found to have proven they could conduct services for up to 50 people, with safe management practices in place.

These include requiring congregants to wear a face mask at all times, and not allowing singing and live performances.

MCCY is also considering a pilot to increase worship limits for up to 250 people - split into five zones of 50 people for congregational services - and will release further details in due course, the Ministry of Health (MOH) said yesterday.

Speaking at a virtual press conference, Mr Gan said the restrictions were lifted as the pilot scheme carried out by MCCY had shown that safe distancing measures can be effectively implemented.

"Globally and in Singapore, we have seen large clusters seeded at religious gatherings, and we have therefore been very cautious in mitigating transmissions at these events.

"At the same time, we recognise that religious activities and worship are important facets of many Singaporeans' daily lives... We hope these measures will go some way to help support Singaporeans' spiritual needs, especially during these difficult times," said Mr Gan.

Mr Tan Thiam Lye, chairman of the Taoist Federation, cheered the move to allow more people to attend religious services.

 
 
 

The relaxation of rules from Oct 3 will mean that more devotees will be able to mark the annual Festival of the Nine Emperor Gods, also known as Kew Ong Yah in Hokkien, he said. The key Taoist festival is due to kick off in the middle of next month.

But Mr Tan added that it is important to ensure that safe management measures are in place.

Reverend Malcolm Tan from Covenant Community Methodist Church in Bukit Timah said it welcomes the announcement.

"It sits with our plans to come back to church by Christmas and to have some kind of on-site service then," he said.

However, physical services may not resume next month as details will first have to be worked out, he added. The church, which has about 900 members, is currently holding services online.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 24, 2020, with the headline 'All religious organisations can host up to 100 for services'. Print Edition | Subscribe