In alignment with the Phase 3 of Singapore’s post-circuit breaker reopening, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on Sunday (27 December) announced that religious organisations (ROs) are permitted to hold congregational and other worship services in places of worship with up to 250 people at a time starting today.
This is an increase from the previous limit of 100 people at a time.
For congregational services exceeding 50 persons, worshippers have to be segregated into zones holding no more than 50 persons each, MCCY said in a statement on Sunday.
In order to avoid mingling of individuals across zones, each zone must be completely separated from another by either a physical solid partition which is at least 1.8m high or at least 3 metres’ physical spacing demarcated by continuous physical barriers such as rope barrier.
Adding to that, a separate ingress and egress for each zone or staggered entrance and exit timings must be put in place so that worshippers from different zones do not mix with one another.
It also stated that the ROs should keep worship services to “as short a duration as possible”, adding there must be “no reception or mingling between worshippers, before, during or after each worship service.”
Except for children below six years old, all persons present must wear a face mask at all times, MCCY noted.
Other religious activities with additional maximum of 150 worshippers can take place concurrently
Other than the worship services, religious rites and other religious activities with an additional maximum of 150 worshippers can take place concurrently at the place of worship.
These activities must be conducted in gatherings not exceeding 50 persons, subject to safe management measures and the safe capacity of the premises, said MCCY.
The Ministry, however, encouraged the ROs to “consider reducing other concurrent activities when congregational and other worship services are ongoing”, so as to help to minimise the risk of large clusters from forming if there is a smaller number of people on the premises at one time.
Live performances allowed; up to 10 persons conducting worship service can unmask, 5 persons can unmask to sing
In addition, during the worship services, the live performance elements will also be permitted at the places of worship, with the necessary safe management measures in place.
“Up to 10 persons who are involved in the conduct of the worship service are allowed to unmask at any given time, of which up to 5 persons can be unmasked for singing. Persons should only unmask when required to perform their duties,” MCCY noted.
Other than those allowed to unmask for singing, it also said that all others are not allowed to sing during the worship service.
Persons involved in the conduct of live performance elements and worshippers must also maintain a physical distance of at least 3 metres.
“There should be no sharing of prayer and other common items such as holy books, passing of offertory baskets, prayer mats as this increases the risk of COVID-19 transmission,” MCCY said, while encouraging worshippers to bring along their personal prayer items instead.
For the recording and broadcast of religious services and prayers, the ROs are allowed to have up to 30 persons on-location, of which up to 10 persons can be unmasked at any one time, while only five persons may sing among these 10 persons.
ROs must submit Safe Management Plans at least 3 days ahead of holding Phase 3 activities
MCCY also stressed that the ROs must submit their Safe Management Plans (SMPs), including manpower deployment, at least 3 days ahead of holding the Phase 3 activities.
“ROs that have yet to submit their SMPs after the effective date of Phase Three may only continue with the permitted religious activities under Phase Two parameters,” said MCCY.
According to MCCY, the TraceTogether-only SafeEntry will be made mandatory at places of worship by early next year after those waiting for a TraceTogether token are able to obtain their tokens.
“To be ready for this requirement, ROs must make the necessary preparations to accept check-ins by the TraceTogether App or Token,” it added.
The Government’s move to allow ROs to resume more activities under Phase 3, however, has garnered the negative feedback from the netizens.
Penning their comments on the Facebook pages of The Straits Times and CNA, some netizens felt that instead of spending a few hours only to attend the congregation with so many restrictions being put in place, worshippers might as well just stay at home and pray.
Some netizens also expressed concerns about the new strain of virus spreading in United Kingdom, saying that Singapore should be more cautious in “pushing forward less restricted measures”.
“It remain to be seen whether it is a folly to allow religious gatherings up to 250 people as we are seeing upsurges of the pandemic everywhere and spreading of more infections variants around the globe,” a netizen wrote.
One netizen even cited the recently surging COVID-19 cases in South Korea, saying that the virus transmission also took place in areas such as prisons, hospitals and churches, where large numbers of people gather.
Another netizen pointed out that all extra small groups activities should be “put on hold” after the main services, as COVID-19 would also spread among the people involved in the worship services when they mix with one another during the religious activities, even though they are not allowed to intermingle during the main service and exit points.
Other than this, some netizens also disagreed with the Government move in allowing the people “singing unmasked” during live performances for worship services.
They opined that this is not necessary, as people can still sing while keeping the mask on.