Places of worship in S'pore scale down capacity limits, group sizes to adjust to new Covid-19 rules

Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery had called up worshippers who booked one-hour slots to get them to postpone or cancel their visits. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - After tighter Covid-19 restrictions were announced last week, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery called up worshippers who had booked one-hour slots to get them to postpone or cancel their visits.

As with other places of worship, the maximum capacity at the monastery in Bright Hill Road had been reduced to 100 people from Saturday (May 8) to May 30, down from 250.

Visitors have to also keep to groups of five, down from eight, amid tighter measures imposed to tackle the growing number of Covid-19 cases in the community.

A spokesman for the monastery told The Straits Times that it was communicating with devotees and the public through its website, social media platforms and electronic newsletter, adding that walk-ins are "strictly not allowed".

On Sunday, the monastery - the largest Buddhist temple in Singapore - had staff deployed to ensure that only visitors with prior bookings were allowed in.

ST saw that staff were also taking temperatures and observing that SafeEntry protocols were adhered to.

Sales manager Susan Tan, 49, who was at the monastery with her brother to pay respects to their late mother, said they had booked their slot about two weeks ago.

"We picked 9am because it is not as crowded. We are already used to practising safe distancing, so we are not too worried about the latest measures," she added.

Until the change, religious organisations had been allowed to conduct congregational and other worship services with a maximum of 250 people since December last year.

The visitors had to be grouped into zones of 50 with no mingling across zones.

The religious organisations were also allowed to have live performances. Singing by worshippers was allowed from April this year, subject to certain safety measures.

But this is no longer allowed from Saturday.

The maximum number of congregants at Toa Payoh Methodist Church's one-hour service on Sunday was capped at 100, not including supporting workers.

They were split into three zones of about 30 people each, down from five zones of 50. TraceTogether-only SafeEntry was implemented and congregants were not allowed to sing during the service.

Toa Payoh Methodist Church is among the religious organisations that are affected by the latest Covid-19 curbs. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

The church's pastor-in-charge, Reverend Benjamin Lee, said: "We are encouraged that our worshippers are understanding, are quick to adapt to the changes and are supportive of both the Government and church's efforts."

Dr Anthony Goh, chairman of the Methodist Church in Singapore Council on Communications, said it has advised its 46 constituent churches on the latest guidelines.

"We have churches with various physical and operational configurations, and each church has to see best on how to allow 100 worshippers into the worship space in zones of 50 and groups of five. Churches will also strictly follow guidelines regarding congregational singing and worship," added Dr Goh.

ST understands that the four Hindu temples managed by the Hindu Endowments Board have also capped capacity at 100 people or fewer, depending on their size.

At the Al Ansar Mosque in Bedok, four zones that allowed for up to 200 congregants have been cut to two zones of 50 each. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

At the Al Ansar Mosque in Bedok, four zones that allowed for up to 200 congregants have been cut to two zones of 50 each.

The mosque's head of corporate services and development Norlinda Osman said it has stepped up safe management measures, such as reminding congregants to practise social distancing and avoid physical contact at all times.

The mosque is also conducting more frequent cleaning.

Heart of God Church in Eunos is also running 100-member services during this period of heightened alert.

A service held at Heart of God Church in Eunos on May 8, 2021. PHOTO: HEART OF GOD CHURCH

The youth church has about 5,000 members, with 70 per cent of its members below 25 years of age.

Senior pastor Cecilia Chan said: "Covid-19 is the only fight that in order to win, we must retreat, so we understand and support the new measures."

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