SINGAPORE - All mosques in Singapore will continue to be closed until March 26, to curb any further spread of the coronavirus in the country's religious institutions.
The extension of the closure of all 70 mosques for another nine days was announced on Monday (March 16) by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).
This means that until next Thursday, congregational prayers, such as the five daily prayers as well as Friday prayers on March 20, will not be held at mosques.
The mosques, however, will resume the call to prayers on Tuesday and produce more online content to continue guiding the community.
When the mosques reopen, Muis said extra measures will be implemented at all mosques to keep the virus at bay.
These include compulsory non-contact temperature-taking of all congregants, turning away those who are unwell and requiring congregants to bring their own prayer mats.
Muis said the decision to extend the closure comes in the wake of more Singaporeans getting infected with the virus after they had attended a religious gathering of 10,000 people from different countries at a mosque on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur.
After consultation with the Ministry of Health (MOH), it believes the risk of a large cluster forming, from among the 100 or so Singaporean participants, persists.
"In the light of this, Muis accepts the MOH's recommendation to extend the closure of our mosques for another nine days until March 26, completing one incubation period to break the cycle of transmission," it said.
Muis also said that the duration of the closure could be changed, depending on updates on Covid-19, which refers to the disease caused by the coronavirus.
The 70 mosques were first closed last Friday for five days for cleaning, as a preventive measure.
Muis had said it would review the situation on Monday, adding that communal activities like congregational prayers may expose worshippers to transmission of the virus by unsuspecting infected individuals.
At least five Singaporeans who went to the Selangor mosque gathering between Feb 27 and March 1 are confirmed cases.
But before it was confirmed that they were infected, they had visited 10 mosques at various times between March 3 and 11, Muis said.
One mosque employee is among the five confirmed cases.
Hence, Muis had said on Sunday that worshippers who visited the 10 mosques may have been exposed to a Covid-19 case.
The mosques are: Masjid Al-Iman, Masjid Al-Muttaqin, Masjid Hajjah Fatimah, Masjid Hajah Rahimabi Kebun Limau, Masjid Kassim, Masjid Petempatan Melayu Sembawang, Masjid Sultan, Masjid Al-Mawaddah, Masjid Jamae (Chulia) and Masjid Al-Istiqamah.
Muslims tend to visit mosques throughout the day to perform their daily prayers, and they include taxi and private-hire car drivers, delivery riders and office workers in the vicinity of the mosques.
On Monday, Muis also said that even with the current measures in place, more cases could emerge through secondary transmission.
Its spokesman explained that it is not possible to identify and trace every mosque-goer as mosques do not operate on a membership system and so, do not have a register of their congregants.
This means contact tracing will not be a sufficient measure to prevent transmission of the virus, the spokesman added.
Singapore's Fatwa Committee, which gives religious guidance to Muslims and is chaired by Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir, has allowed the closing of mosques and suspension of Friday prayers in the interest of public health and safety.
At least 37 Bruneians and 77 Malaysians at the Selangor gathering, or were close contacts of those who attended, have tested positive, according to media reports.
On Monday, Malaysia's Department of Islamic Development (Jakim), recommended that mosques in the country close for 10 days and cease all activities including mass prayers and Friday prayers, following the advice of the country's Health Ministry.
Malaysia recorded its highest single-day increase in coronavirus cases the day before, with 190 confirmed new patients, most of whom were linked to the gathering at the Selangor mosque.
The gathering has also been linked to most of the confirmed patients in Brunei, which has at least 50 infected cases now.