Coronavirus: Worship at other churches, mosques to continue
Precautionary measures in place, National Council of Churches urges those who are ill to stay home
The Grace Assembly of God church has stopped all services and activities for two weeks since the confirmation on Wednesday that two of its employees had contracted the coronavirus, which causes the disease Covid-19.
Yesterday, another five cases were linked to the church, making it seven cases there in total.
The church's senior pastor, Reverend Wilson Teo, later said in a message to congregants that he tested positive for the virus and has been warded since Tuesday.
This is the second local cluster linked to a church and the third church affected by the outbreak.
A couple from Wuhan and three Singaporeans have been linked to The Life Church and Missions Singapore in Paya Lebar, while a 71-year-old Singaporean visited Paya Lebar Methodist Church before he was warded for the virus.
National Council of Churches of Singapore president Terry Kee said churches will continue to provide worship services but requested that those who are unwell to stay home.
He told The New Paper: "In response to the two clusters linked to churches, we call upon churches to secure attendance information that can help in the tracking of (contacts)."
Weekend services at churches and Friday prayers at mosques are expected to go on, with precautionary measures already in place since the Disease Outbreak Response System Condition level was raised to orange last week.
The Islamic Religious Council of Singapore said last week mosques have stepped up safety measures and can continue with their religious programmes with confidence. Worshippers are encouraged to bring their own personal prayer items.
Before the new cases were announced yesterday, Grace Assembly of God, which has over 4,000 members, told TNP it is working to sanitise its Tanglin and Bukit Batok premises.
Rev Teo later said the premises will be closed from Feb 14 to 25, with plans to restart services at the end of the month.
All church staff will be issued with home quarantine orders.
The Life Church and Missions Singapore stopped services and meetings from Feb 7 and now live-streams nightly sermons.
Paya Lebar Methodist Church's premises were sealed for sanitation and its kindergarten was temporarily shut.
Meanwhile, megachurch New Creation said it has deployed thermal scanners similar to those used at Changi Airport since end-January.
From Saturday (Feb 15) onwards, all public masses at Catholic churches will be suspended indefinitely.
In a letter to parishioners seen by TNP, Archbishop William Goh said the move was due to the current escalating situation, which is proving to be difficult to contain.
He added that the suspension will remain until there is greater clarity on the way forward.
All other large public events such as formation sessions, retreats and seminars should also be suspended, Archbishop Goh said.
Catholic churches had previously suspended all catechism classes for children until March 1, and congregants were advised to avoid holding hands during mass.
Holy communion was received only on the hand, and holy communion from the chalice had been suspended.
Infectious diseases specialist Leong Hoe Nam told TNP there is no need to cancel religious gatherings for now.
But some groups have decided to cancel all religious activities.
Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery in Sin Ming has suspended all events, group chanting and classes. It may consider postponing the upcoming Qing Ming prayers in late March and early April, which attracted over 300,000 visitors last year.
A City Harvest Church spokesman told TNP on Friday (Feb 14) it is moving the rest of its weekend services for this month online as a precautionary measure in light of the two church-linked Covid-19 clusters.
Services last weekend at Suntec Convention Centre, which has implemented tighter screening measures starting Feb 7, saw a drop in attendance as the church told congregants who were unwell or wanted to take extra precautions to stay home. Services at the church's Jurong West premises were cancelled.
Said the spokesman: "The health, well-being and safety of our congregation is very important to us, and we will take the necessary measures to maintain them."