Seventh month prayer services will be allowed from Aug 19 with up to 50 people

Seventh Month prayers can take place in venues outside of places of worship, such as HDB common areas and industrial areas. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Religious organisations will be allowed to conduct Seventh Month prayer services with up to 50 people at a time from Aug 19 to Sept 16.

The cap of 50 people excludes religious and supporting workers, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on Friday (Aug 7).

The ministry's advisory was developed in consultation with the Singapore Buddhist Federation and Taoist Federation.

It said religious organisations have to submit safe management plans at least three days before they plan to start Seventh Month prayer services.

These should include ensuring 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 such as getai will not be permitted during the service though worshippers can burn incense and joss paper within the premises.

All people present are required to wear a face mask at all times while religious leaders may wear a face shield when performing speaking duties.

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

No receptions or on-site meals are allowed before or after the service but organisations can distribute takeaway meals, pre-packed staple food items and prayer packages to worshippers.

Other congregational and worship services are allowed to take place concurrently, but these are subject to a cap of 50 people.

Visits to columbaria in their places of worship are also allowed if the columbaria have been permitted to operate in phase two, subject to a cap of 50 people.

Individuals who visit the columbaria must maintain a safe distance of at least 1m at all times. Families who visit the columbaria in groups are limited to no more than five people in a group.

Non-congregational religious activities in places of worship, such as religious rites, pastoral services and religious classes can also be conducted concurrently for groups of up to five people, subject to the same cap of 50 people.

These activities must be conducted at separate locations within the place of worship and there must be adequate signs to guide people such that they do not interact while entering, leaving or while on the premises.

The MCCY also said Seventh Month prayers can take place in venues outside of places of worship, such as HDB common areas and industrial areas.

This applies to religious organisations who have submitted their safe management plans for phase two activities. These organisations must still obtain permits and approvals from the premise owners and the authorities.

Organisations that did not submit safe management plans for phase two activities must first seek the support of the Taoist Federation or the Singapore Buddhist Federation before their applications to use external venues will be considered.

Venerable Seck Kwang Phing, president of the Singapore Buddhist Federation said: "Ullambana Festival may take place differently this year, but this does not lessen the significance of the festival. Worshippers can still express their filial piety, in a safe and responsible manner, in accordance with the guidelines, to protect themselves and others."

Mr Tan Thiam Lye, the Taoist Federation's chairman, said the Hungry Ghost Festival will be different this year because of Covid-19.

"All activities must comply with the prevailing safe management measures stipulated by the authorities. The Taoist Federation (Singapore) will do our best to meet the religious needs of the Taoist community in Singapore, working closely with the relevant authorities," he said.

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