Singapore churches seek concessions for unvaccinated worshippers
New Covid-19 restrictions in the city-state won't allow unvaccinated people to attend events from Feb. 1
The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd in Singapore. Churches in the city-state have appealed to authorities to make concessions to allow unvaccinated worshippers. (Photo: Archdiocese of Singapore)
Singapore's government has been asked to make concessions for unvaccinated worshippers as the city-state prepares to impose new restrictions on public gatherings to curb the Covid-19 pandemic.
The appeal comes as authorities expand vaccination-differentiated safe management measures (VDS) from Feb. 1 in line with a directive from the Ministry of Health announced on Dec. 14.
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Regardless of size, all events must implement VDS, which means a change from the current rule that allows events to host fewer than 50 people.
The new rule allows only those fully vaccinated, medically ineligible for Covid-19 vaccines or those who have recovered from the disease, and children aged 12 and below, to attend events such as congregational and worship services, reported the Straits Times.
VDS will also cover institutes of higher learning and will affect students and visitors entering the campuses.
In a statement posted on Facebook, a Catholic church has appealed to authorities to make concessions to allow all parishioners to participate in worship regardless of their vaccination status.
We recognize that some have valid reasons for not being vaccinated ... churches are committed to encourage Christians to be vaccinated for the well-being of everyone
The archdiocese is seeking an allowance that we continue to have Masses for the unvaccinated in a separate setting solely for them where they do not mix with the vaccinated, the Church of St. Bernadette in Zion Road said in a Facebook post on Jan. 16 referring to the position of the Archdiocese of Singapore.
It pointed out that Singapore Archdiocese's Covid-19 task force has taken adequate measures to curb spreading the virus in churches and church-run institutes as well as engaged with authorities over to communicate their position that all parishioners have the right to worship.
[Pending] the decision, the authorities have allowed the booking of Masses for the unvaccinated and the vaccinated to continue as normal for the month of February, it added.
Meanwhile, Reverend Ngoei Foong Nghian, general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Singapore, said the council has also appealed to authorities to make concessions for unvaccinated worshippers.
We recognize that some have valid reasons for not being vaccinated, he told the Straits Times, adding that churches are committed to encourage Christians to be vaccinated for the well-being of everyone.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said that discussions over the concessions with religious organizations have been ongoing.
A major Buddhist group, the Singapore Buddhist Federation, said it would not appeal against the VDS rules.
The group's president Venerable Seck Kwang Phing said Buddhist temples in Singapore admit worshippers and visitors who are fully vaccinated and advise others to join livestreamed prayers.
The monk said it is crucial to allow only vaccinated people as many devotees who enter temples are elderly people.
Singapore's Ministry of Health reported 5,996 new cases of Covid-19 and two deaths on Jan. 25. The city-state has recorded 323,000 cases and 850 deaths from coronavirus.
Official data shows Singapore has fully vaccinated 4.73 million or about 83.2 percent of its estimated 5.6 million citizens.