More religious activities allowed to resume in phase 2 of reopening

People praying outside the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple on May 28, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - More religious activities will be allowed to gradually resume at places of worship from Friday (June 19) as Singapore emerges from the circuit breaker.

These have to be carried out with the necessary precautions in place to reduce physical interactions.

Congregational and other worship services, starting with up to 50 people at a time, excluding religious and supporting workers, may resume from June 26 to allow religious organisations to prepare safe management measures.

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said in an advisory late on Thursday that the organisations are required to submit their safe management plans at least three days before commencing phase two activities.

The plans should include manpower deployment, ensuring that worshippers observe a 1m safe distance when worshipping individually or in groups of no more than five, and keeping worship services as short as possible.

Singing and other live performances will not be permitted during the service, and there should not be any sharing of prayer or other common items.

Where possible, places of worship with reduced air circulation, such as enclosed prayer spaces, should open doors and windows to naturally ventilate the space after use.

Other religious activities, aside from congregational and worship services, are allowed to take place concurrently but these are subject to a cap of 50 people and should be conducted at separate locations within the place of worship.

Marriage solemnisations, as well as wakes and funerals, will be allowed to take place at the places of worship, with a limit of 20 people at a time, excluding religious and supporting workers.

Families may also continue to install niches for their loved ones in the columbaria, and visitors will also be permitted.

Other non-congregational religious activities, such as religious rites, pastoral services and religious classes can be conducted for groups of up to five people. Religious organisations with safety management plans that already comply with the parameters set out by the advisory can commence these activities from Friday.

As religious organisations are encouraged to continue supporting the needs of their communities via remote means, up to 10 people will be allowed on-location for productions, involving the recording and broadcast of services and prayers.

However, the religious organisations are urged to reduce other concurrent activities when congregational and other worship services are ongoing, so as to minimise the risk of large clusters forming.

The MCCY said that it hopes to gradually increase the congregation limit beyond 50 people if Covid-19 community transmission remains low and stable, and religious organisations are able to implement the safe management measures.

It added that in the event congregations are allowed to exceed 50 people, worshippers have to be divided into zones holding no more than that number each.

The zones will then have to be clearly demarcated and separated by barriers or partitions, with separate points of entry and exit, or staggered arrival and departure timings. There should also be no intermingling of individuals across zones.

In a Facebook post on Friday, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat referred to the resumption of religious services, saying that the last few months showed the diversity in Singapore society.

"Looking back, we had to observe different festivals such as Qing Ming, Good Friday, Vesak Day, and Hari Raya Puasa very differently this year. It is not uncommon to see different places of worship in the same locality. It is not out of the ordinary for our religious leaders to work together for the common good.

"Especially, in a crisis, we must focus on what we have in common, and work together. Only then, can we emerge stronger as a society from this crisis." he added.

Mr Heng also disclosed that he had joined the meeting of the National Steering Committee on Racial and Religious Harmony earlier this week.

"I had the opportunity to speak to a few religious and community leaders - to thank them for being resilient, for adapting to the crisis, and standing in solidarity with people of all faiths," he said.

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