Public masses in Singapore have been suspended in response to the continued spread of coronavirus. Around 75 people have been diagnosed with the virus in the city-state, with 19 discharged from hospital and six seriously ill.
In a letter posted on the Archdiocese of Singapore's website, Archbishop William Goh said that all other public Catholic services and events should be cancelled as well. In the case of weddings and funerals, where only a small number of people are required to attend, the Archbishop directed Catholics to make arrangements with their priest.
The 32-church archdiocese had previously asked parishioners to check their temperatures before going to mass, and exempted those suffering from flu symptoms from attending physically. Archbishop Goh explained that these measures were now considered insufficient given that those infected with the coronavirus may not display symptoms.
In order to fulfil their Sunday obligation, the archbishop directed Catholics to follow mass online, such as through the archdiocese’s Youtube channel and smartphone app, which will livestream masses. Singaporean Catholics were also asked to pray that the virus would be contained and defeated, and for the medical staff working to preserve the life and health of the sick.
The decision comes after several religious institutions in Singapore have been linked to outbreaks of the virus. The most notorious example of this, the Grace Assembly of God church, has had 13 cases linked to it and has also cancelled services.
Around 220,000 Catholics live in Singapore, amounting to roughly 5 per cent of the religiously diverse city-state’s population. In cancelling all public masses the Church there follows Hong Kong, which has suspended public services for a two week period.
More than 71,000 people globally have been infected with the coronavirus and 1,770 have died. Although both deaths and infections have been concentrated in mainland China so far, outside, there have been more than 500 cases and four deaths in 26 countries. The first death attributed to coronavirus outside Asia was on 15 February, when a Chinese tourist in France died of complications resulting from the virus.