Unvaccinated people can continue attending private worship in groups of up to 5 from Feb 1

From Feb 1, vaccination-differentiated measures are needed for congregational and other worship services. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

SINGAPORE - Unvaccinated worshippers can continue to attend private worship from next month, when vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) for congregational and worship services will be expanded.

They will be able to do so in a group of five with one religious worker, according to the updated guidelines for religious activities published on the Crisis Preparedness for Religious Organisations (CPRO) website by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and CPRO on Tuesday (Jan 25).

The Ministry of Health (MOH) said on Dec 14, 2021, that all events, regardless of size, must implement VDS from Feb 1 in order to proceed - a change from the current rule that gives concessions to events hosting fewer than 50 people.

This means only those who are fully vaccinated, are medically ineligible for Covid-19 vaccines, or have recovered from the disease, as well as children aged 12 and below, can attend events such as congregational and worship services.

The Straits Times reported on Jan 20 that at least two religious organisations were appealing to the authorities to make concessions for those who remain unvaccinated.

In the updated guidelines, MCCY and CPRO said: "Given the prevailing permissible group size of five for social gatherings, religious organisations can continue to allow one group of up to five persons (regardless of vaccination status) at any one time to conduct private worship in the place of worship."

These worshippers must remain masked at all times and can interact with a religious worker who is fully vaccinated. There must be safe distancing of at least 1m between the group and the religious worker.

An MCCY spokesman told The Straits Times the private worship service can be anywhere in the place of worship, as long as the group does not mingle with persons involved in worship services and other religious activities that is subject to VDS.

In response to queries from ST, Dr Anthony Goh, chairman of the Methodist Church in Singapore Council on Communications, said: “We do not commonly conduct private worship services for fewer than five persons but will be cognisant of this guideline should the need arise.”

He said the churches have various physical and operational configurations, and each church will see how best to strictly follow the new guidelines.

“We are grateful to the authorities for doing their best to understand and accommodate the needs of the community while ensuring the overall safety of all Singaporeans of every faith,” Dr Goh added.

From Feb 1, aside from the private worship, VDS will be required for congregational and other worship services, which can involve up to 1,000 worshippers.

They will have to be segregated into zones holding no more than 100 worshippers each.

Also from next month, all unmasked performers who are singing or playing wind instruments can obtain their required negative Covid-19 test result either through an MOH-approved test provider or a self-administered antigen rapid test (ART).

A self-administered test must be supervised on-site or virtually by the religious organisation's live performance organiser.

Religious organisations must keep the records, including ART results, of the unmasked singers and persons playing wind or brass instruments.

  • Additional reporting by Nadine Chua

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