Phase 3 from Dec 28: What it means for churches

Salt&Light // December 14, 2020, 6:17 pm

Worship safety measures in place.

Worship safety measures in place.

With COVID-19 cases remaining low, Singapore will move to Phase 3 of its reopening, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced today (Monday, Dec 14).

Phase 3 will see the permitted group size for social gatherings increase; pilots for busking and live performances in outdoor venues, karaoke and some nightlife settings; and an increase of capacity limits in public places such as malls, attractions and places of worship, the Ministry of Health announced.


1. Worship services can increase to 250 members in zones of 50

The Health Ministry announced that all religious organisations with suitable facilities will be able to increase their capacity for congregational and other worship services to up to 250 persons, in zones of up to 50 persons each for congregational services. Churches that wish to progressively ramp up to allow 250 into their worship services before Dec 28 can apply to do so by emailing [email protected].

2. Worship leaders allowed to sing unmasked, with safe management measures

Worship leaders will be allowed to sing at congregational worship services, with specific safe management measures in place, such as a limited number of unmasked singers and wind instruments. Since October 3, a handful of churches have been part of a pilot where live singing has been allowed. In the pilot, participating churches were allowed a maximum of 10 musicians or singers on stage, with up to five people unmasked – or two unmasked in an indoor venue. Those on stage had to maintain a safe distance of 1 metre, or 2 metres for those unmasked, with a 3 metre gap between the singers and the congregation.

In addition, during the pilot, the preacher on stage also counted towards the number of those unmasked. No need for a mask or faceshield while preaching.

3. Churches reopening will need to adopt TraceTogether soon

TraceTogether-only SafeEntry, where the TraceTogether App or Token is required for SafeEntry check-ins, will be enforced early next year. The implementation has been delayed as collection from Community Clubs or Centres continues to be rolled out across Singapore. Until TraceTogether-only SafeEntry is enforced, visitors to churches can still perform SafeEntry check-in via the TraceTogether App, SingPass Mobile, or QR reader apps, or use their identity cards with barcodes such as NRIC. 

4. Up to 8 people allowed at social gatherings, home visits

Good news for smaller cell groups and after-service fellowship: From Dec 28, social gatherings will be allowed to have up to 8 people, up from the current 5. Households can also welcome up to 8 visitors at a time, also up from 5.

5. Changes to marriage solemnisations guidelines

For marriage solemnisations held in the home, in Phase 3, the hosting household will be able to invite up to 8 visitors – not counting members of the hosting household, the solemniser and vendors – even if this exceeds the existing cap of 10 persons.

In addition, marriage solemnisations in indoor venues, as well as funerals and funeral-related activities, will also be allowed to have live instrumental music (except for wind instruments) with the necessary safe management measures in place, the Health Ministry announced.

Some of these changes, including the increase to congregation sizes of 250 and live singing, have been piloted over the last few months by selected churches and other religious institutions. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said it will release an advisory with more information of the new safe management measures later this week.

Up to 100 now permitted in church services, with pilot for 250 in the pipeline

If the local COVID-19 situation remains stable, the Multi-Ministry Taskforce will consider allowing further resumption of activities, over the course of Phase 3, the Health Ministry added in its press statement. 

The coming year will also see the gradual, free roll-out of COVID-19 vaccines to Singaporeans and long-term residents, the Prime Minister said.

“I am very grateful that Singaporeans have complied with the spirit, and not just the letter of the rules. We stayed united, kept up our guard, and did not allow ourselves to become complacent over time,” said Mr Lee in his public broadcast on Dec 14.

“We can be proud of how far we have come.”

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