SINGAPORE - Places of worship are allowed to have up to five households for private worship in their premises at any one time when they reopen from June 2, subject to adequate safe distancing measures that have to be put in place.
This limit is imposed because people should continue to limit their contact with others outside their households in the first phase of the gradual resumption of activities after the circuit breaker ends, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said in an advisory to religious organisations issued on Monday (May 25).
Worshippers may only pray individually or together if they are members of the same household. This means that family members not staying at the same address are not allowed to join them in private worship.
To minimise the risk of Covid-19 transmission, there must be no physical interaction between worshippers from different households at the place of worship, said MCCY.
Safe distancing must be maintained between the worshippers and religious workers in the place of worship at all times. Worshippers must also minimise their time in the place of worship, and not engage in other religious activities on site.
MCCY said private worship refers only to prayers and other forms of worship that are performed by an individual worshipper alone or with his household group.
Religious rites and ceremonies performed by religious workers are strictly not allowed except for marriage solemnisations and funeral-related activities. Families may continue to install niches for their loved ones in columbaria in places of worship, which will otherwise remain closed to visitors.
Places of worship may have religious workers and staff to facilitate private worship and other permitted activities, but this group must be limited to essential tasks and kept to a minimum number, MCCY added.
Places of worship that are located in residential units must also remain closed to external visitors, in line with prevailing restrictions on homes and households, where visits and mingling of households are not allowed except for visits to parents or grandparents staying elsewhere in phase one.
Congregational worship services, religious classes and cell group meetings that are conducted in person also remain suspended in phase one, as these involve interaction of individuals from different households.
WHAT IS ALLOWED AT WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS
Marriage solemnisations conducted in person can involve up to 10 people, excluding the solemniser, said MCCY. These guests have to be immediate family members of the couple, except for the two witnesses who may be non-family members.
"Nevertheless, we encourage couples to consider the alternative of marriage solemnisations via video link, so as to better protect themselves and their loved ones from the risk of infection," said MCCY.
Wakes, funeral rites and the installation of niches can continue to involve up to 10 people at any one time. This excludes religious and other supporting workers, which must be kept to a minimum.
Those who attend marriage solemnisations and funeral-related activities must minimise their interaction with others present, and must leave the place of worship immediately after the event. There should not be any post-event reception with food and drinks.
STEPS THAT RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS SHOULD TAKE
Religious organisations should continue to support the religious needs of their communities via remote means such as recording and broadcast of religious services and prayers, said MCCY.
There should be no more than five people on site at a time for the digital production of these services. Time spent on site for this purpose must be kept as short as possible.
"We encourage religious organisations to plan their production schedule as everyone must continue to limit their movements outside their homes and interactions with non-household members," MCCY added. The production team must abide by guidelines issued by MCCY and put in place adequate safe management measures.
Live singing for the recording of religious services and prayers is also strongly discouraged as singing releases more droplets, which will increase the risk of Covid-19 transmission, MCCY said. Religious organisations that want to have live singing must first demonstrate how they would do so safely for MCCY's review before they can proceed.
Safe management measures to protect worshippers, religious workers and staff must also be put in place. These include designating prayer areas; ensuring that prayer items are not shared; ensuring no queues of worshippers outside the premises; safe distancing among worshippers, religious workers and staff; sanitising the prayer area after each use; and ensuring one-way flow for entry and exit points.
Religious organisations will have to submit their safe management plans to MCCY within two weeks of reopening their place of worship and starting the permitted activities. The details for submitting these plans are available here from Wednesday (May 27).
MCCY said it reserves the right to suspend religious organisations' activities until the necessary rectifications are made, should the plans be deemed inadequate.
"Should there be any confirmed Covid-19 cases linked to a religious organisation's premises or place of worship, the entire premises will be closed for a period of time determined by the authorities if there are public health grounds to do so," MCCY added.