Coronavirus forces restrictions in Singapore

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, addressed his people’s concerns over the country’s response to the Wuhan coronavirus in a video broadcast on February 8. Screen capture off YouTube

SINGAPORE (UCAN): Religious leaders in Singapore have put restrictions on rituals and celebrations after the city state reported 30 confirmed cases of Wuhan coronavirus infection (Covid-19, formerly Novel coronavirus 2019), making it the third most affected country after China and Japan.

The Archdiocese of Singapore exempted people with symptoms from attending Mass or other community activities.

In a detailed instruction, the archdiocese asked Catholics to receive Communion only in the hand rather than on the tongue. It also asked parishes not to keep holy water containers at church entrances.

It further advised that catechists and students should have their temperature tested before classes. 

Bishop Chong Chin Chung of the Methodist Church, suggested an alternative to the handshake, saying congregants might greet each other with their palms placed together, with a slight bow of the head.

The Office of the Mufti in Singapore, has exempted Muslims in quarantine or who feel unwell from attending Friday prayers. Its message also urged Muslims to wash hands with soap and cover the mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.

The Singapore Buddhist Federation had cancelled its annual Chinese New Year gathering on January 31.

The government has started making arrangements for a second flight to bring back Singaporeans from Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak in China, the foreign affairs ministry said on February 7.

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The epidemic has claimed 1,113 lives in mainland China, the National Health Commission of China said on February 12, while over 4,771 have recovered. 

Singapore has imposed travel restrictions on new visitors of any nationality with recent travel history to mainland China.

 “The traffic between China and Singapore has come down significantly because flights have shrunk 70 to 80 per cent, while traffic volume has come down by 60 to 70 per cent,” transport minister, Khaw Boon Wan, said on February 6.

Amid reports of shops running out of stock, the government announced that all 1.3 million households in Singapore would each be given a pack of four face masks, The Straits Times reported.

On the evening of February 8, the city state’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong offered further assurances in a video message broadcast on television and posted online (see: https://bit.ly/31EB9Y5). 

He stressed, “There is no need to panic. We are not locking down the city or confining everybody to stay at home. We have ample supplies, so there is no need to stock up with instant noodles, tinned food, or toilet paper, as some people did yesterday.” 

Lee described the outbreak as a test of social cohesion and psychological resilience.

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“Fear can do more harm than the virus itself,” he said.

Schools have been asked to suspend assemblies and excursions. Several firms in Singapore have suspended business and media events, including a big travel fair.

Singapore was one of the worst-hit countries outside China in the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

Author: SundayExam