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Singapore

Churches fight swine-flu spread

Updated: July 02, 2009 10:52 AM GMT
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The Catholic Church in Singapore is doing its bit to curb the spread of the A(H1N1) virus or swine flu. This weekend, the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary will once again screen the temperatures of churchgoers before allowing them to enter the church building for Mass.

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A doctor from the Mount Alvernia Hospital, a Catholic hospital, administers a flu vaccination in Singapore (Photo: Courtesy of Mount Alvernia Hospital, Singapore)

"We will check temperatures with a handheld infrared scanner," said parish priest Father Henry Siew. "Those with abnormal temperatures will stay in a waiting area. Half an hour later, we will take temperatures again. For those with a persistently abnormal body temperature, we will call 993." The phone number 993 is the hotline that people can call to request an ambulance to take suspected swine flu cases to hospital. Singapore, with a population of more than 4 million, has reported a total of 783 swine flu cases, according to figures released by the Ministry of Health on July 1. So far, no one has died from it. The temperature screening of worshippers at the Church of the Nativity began on the weekend of June 27-28. The church is the only local Catholic church known to have implemented such temperature screening for Massgoers. Students attending catechism classes at the church are also having their temperatures taken. Another parish, St. Joseph Church, will request a parents´ declaration that their children, who are attending catechism classes, have not traveled overseas and that none of the family members are being quarantined for swine flu. Temperature screening of students before class will also be conducted. In taking these precautions, these parishes are following the practice of various schools in Singapore that have started taking the temperatures of students before the start of each school day. Other parishes that are not conducting temperature checks have cancelled some catechism classes. The Church of St. Anthony and Blessed Sacrament Church, for example, have canceled July 4-5 classes. Father Terence Pereira, parish priest of St. Anthony, said: "We are thinking of the next step. We are looking at providing sanitizers and masks for catechism classes." The Church of the Holy Cross has also advised children and teenagers who have returned from overseas trips to swine-flu affected areas to stay home this weekend instead of coming to church. While catechism classes at the Church of St. Mary of the Angels will be held as normal this weekend, a youth camp for some secondary school students, scheduled for Jul. 17-18, has been postponed to October. Meanwhile, Father Patrick Goh, chancellor of the Singapore archdiocese, told UCA News that instructions issued by Archbishop Nicholas Chia on April 30 on the precautions to be taken during Mass are still in force. Parishes are also strongly urged to cancel youth camps, said Father Goh. The archbishop had instructed that Communion not be given on the tongue, that people avoid shaking hands during the sign of peace at Mass, and that holy water fonts not be filled. In addition, he said people who have a fever or cold should be advised not to attend church services. Commenting on the Church precautions, Doctor John Hui, a Catholic medical practitioner, said the responsibility of preventing the spread of swine flu lies not just with "priests and Church authorities, but with every member of the Church."

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