All mosques to remain closed until next Thursday
When they reopen, there will be two 30-minute sessions of Friday prayers, starting initially at four mosques
All mosques in Singapore will remain closed until March 26 in a bid to contain the coronavirus from spreading further in religious institutions.
The extension of temporary closure was announced yesterday by the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (Muis).
This means that all congregational prayers, such as the five daily prayers and Friday prayers on March 20 will not be held at mosques until next Thursday, March 26.
The mosques were closed for five days last Friday after five Singaporeans were infected with Covid-19 while attending a large religious gathering near Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.
They were later found to have visited 10 mosques here before testing positive for the virus.
Yesterday, another 17 new infections were confirmed, a new high for the second day running after 14 new cases on Sunday.
Minister-in-charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli said at the press conference yesterday that Friday prayers will resume on March 27, but sermons and prayers will be shortened to 30 minutes.
This will allow the mosques to pilot a new system of having two sessions of Friday prayers, starting initially at four mosques - Maarof mosque in Jurong West, Mujahidin mosque in Queenstown, Muhajirin mosque in Bishan and An-Nur mosque in Woodlands.
Mr Masagos said: "We are spacing (out) congregants to have bigger distances among them, and because of that, the capacity of the mosque will be halved."
He added that enhanced measures will be in place at all 70 mosques when they reopen, including mandatory temperature screenings, not having the salaam or handshakes at the end of prayers and requiring congregants to bring their own prayer items.
A full contact tracing regimen for all congregants will also be introduced.
Mr Masagos said the call to prayer, or the azan, will resume at all mosques tomorrow with an Arabic saying at the end to tell Muslims to pray at home.
"This is a difficult time for everybody around the world. Everyone has to adjust their social norms to prevent community spread (of the virus)," he added.
"This will not be the last time that we may close the mosques. There can be other occasions, we do not know what the possibilities are."
Mr Masagos said a total of 101 Singaporeans have been identified as having attended the religious gathering in Malaysia.
RISK OF LARGE CLUSTER
Muis said it consulted the Ministry of Health and concluded there was a risk of a large cluster forming from among the Malaysian event participants.
Extending the closure of the mosques until March 26 would complete one incubation period of the coronavirus to break the cycle of transmission, Muis added.
Deputy Mufti of Singapore Nazirudin Mohd Nasir said at the press conference: "If you do not take the necessary precautions at mosques, an important place of gathering for the community, it can become a place for easy transmission.
"My advice to the community is to make adjustments here and there to ensure they can continue their congregational and communal services in a safe and responsible way.
"That is the core teaching of Islam, that anything you do is not just about yourself but for the society," he said.
Last night, Malaysian Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin announced a national lockdown from tomorrow till March 31 as the number of Covid-19 cases surged past 500 with most of them from the large mosque gathering.
The lockdown includes a ban on mass gatherings, including religious, sports, social and cultural events. There will also be a temporary ban on all foreign tourists and visitors.