Two women wearing protective face masks amid concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus walk on the street in Singapore on Feb. 14. (Photo: Roslan Rahman/AFP)
Christian groups in Singapore have suspended prayer gatherings and switched to online worship after their island nation reported the third-highest number of coronavirus infections after China and Japan.
The city-state with 5.7 million people has confirmed 75 cases, while Japan has 412 and mainland China 71,000.Two of the three new cases reported on Feb. 16 were linked to the Grace Assembly of God Church, according to Singapore’s health ministry.
One case was linked to Life Church and Missions, forcing Christian churches and gatherings to tighten precautionary measures.
Starting Feb. 15, City Harvest Church, which has 16,00 members in the city, has suspended all prayer gatherings and asked members to meet online.
As the infections have increased in the past week, “the best thing for our congregation is to bring services online,” City Harvest Church said in a statement on Feb. 15.
Grace Assembly of God, which has reported 13 confirmed cases among its members, has closed its prayer halls until Feb. 25.
Paya Lebar Methodist Church has one confirmed case but church volunteers are following the ministry’s guidelines, said pastor-in-charge Kow Shih Ming. It is broadcasting its services online.
The Catholic Church in Singapore has suspended all Masses and public services indefinitely from Feb. 15 due to the outbreak.
Archbishop William Goh of Singapore, in a pastoral letter on Feb. 14, said both weekday and weekend public Masses will be suspended indefinitely.
The cancellation does not mean Catholics can excuse themselves from Mass obligations, Archbishop Goh said, adding that the faithful can follow Mass on broadcasts on YouTube or CatholicSG radio.
The prayer program suspension means Singapore’s 220,000 Catholics will probably miss the Feb. 26 Ash Wednesday ceremony that marks the beginning of Lent observation in preparation for Easter celebrations.
The health ministry has said one case was reported after a person attended a Mass at Church of Christ the King in Ang Mo Kio.
St. Andrew’s Cathedral, a major tourist attraction, has suspended tours to prevent the risk of the virus spreading. The cathedral has also ceased programs for young children.Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists have also put in place measures against Covid-19.At the landmark Masjid Angullia on Serangoon Road, hand sanitizer stations have been set up for the 2,500 congregants who flock there for Friday prayers.At the centuries-old mosque, congregants can select a disposable plastic sheet to place over the carpet they prostrate on, according to the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore.
In a media statement, the Hindu Endowments Board listed a slew of measures its temples have taken. These range from masks to thermo sanitizers.Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown has started live-streaming of its ceremonies and group practices on its website.