SINGAPORE: Two Singaporeans have contracted COVID-19 after attending a religious event near Kuala Lumpur, Minister-in-Charge of Muslim Affairs Masagos Zulkifli confirmed on Thursday (Mar 12).
Mr Masagos also announced that the Islamic Religious Council of Singapore (MUIS) will close all mosques for at least five days from Friday for cleaning, to prevent community spread through mosque activities.
Brunei and Malaysia authorities have also confirmed that some of their nationals who attended the Feb 27 to Mar 1 event, which reportedly attracted 10,000 people, have contracted the disease.
Mr Masagos said 82 Singaporeans are confirmed to have attended the Jhor Qudamak Malaysia 2020 event at the Seri Petaling Mosque in Selangor, although this number could rise as more information comes in.
READ: MOH identifying 95 Singaporeans at mass religious event in Malaysia after COVID-19 cases confirmed – Masagos
The minister said the Ministry of Health (MOH) is conducting detailed contact tracing on the 82, adding that they were not affiliated to a particular mosque or group and probably knew each other only socially.
Those of the 82 found to be sick will be handed over to the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), Mr Masagos said. The rest will be “advised appropriately”.
One person in the group became sick “a few days” after returning to Singapore and sought medical attention on Monday, Mr Masagos said. It is not known when he returned to Singapore.
“In between arriving in Singapore and getting medical attention, he also performed duties of an officer of a mosque and in that process visited four mosques in performing his duties,” he said, without elaborating further on the duties or his personal details.
However, Mr Masagos identified the four mosques as Jamae Chulia, Muttaqin, Hajjah Fatimah and Kassim.
Mr Masagos said the NCID contacted the man on Wednesday to bring him in for testing. He tested positive on Thursday.
A second man from the group has also tested positive, Mr Masagos said, although he offered fewer details on this case. “We are still tracing his movement for the last few days,” he said. “We do not know whether he went to a mosque or otherwise.”
The four mosques visited by the confirmed case have been closed since 1pm on Thursday for thorough disinfection by professional cleaning agencies.
“MUIS has decided that while this person might have still been asymptomatic when he went to the four mosques, they need to be sanitised quickly,” Mr Masagos said, adding that authorities have deemed it “important” to extend the closure to all 70 mosques in Singapore.
This is the first time that all mosques in Singapore will be closed.
MUIS chief executive Esa Masood said this was necessary to prevent a “sizeable” COVID-19 cluster as the 82 are regular congregants at various mosques, adding that it is common practice for Muslims in Singapore to worship at different mosques.
CANCELLATION OF ALL ACTIVITIES
The closure of mosques means that the obligatory Friday prayers for Muslim males will be suspended, with Mufti Nazirudin Mohd Nasir explaining that these circumstances mean it is religiously allowed for them to conduct the usual daily prayers at home instead.
Mosques will also cancel all activities, lectures, religious classes and mosque-based kindergartens for two weeks, from Friday to Mar 27.
“This two-week period will allow more time for us to really break the cycle of transmission,” Mr Esa said. “We will continue to watch the situation and monitor the numbers from these cases that MOH is doing contact tracing.
“If the need arises to extend the period of closure, we will then adjust accordingly and we will monitor closely over the next few days.”
Mr Esa said MUIS will assess over the next few days additional measures mosques need to take before it allows them to re-open. It will be aided by a Malay-Muslim working group on COVID-19, comprising doctors and religious teachers, that officially convenes on Friday.
According to Mr Esa, whether the mosques re-open after five days will depend on the confirmed cases that come out of the 82 who attended the event in Malaysia and developments in other countries that also had citizens who attended the event.
“Should the numbers go up, or beyond the two (confirmed cases) there is a sizeable cluster, those are good justifications to then consider an extension,” he said.
Mr Masagos had earlier written in a Facebook post on Thursday that MOH was working to identify the Singaporeans who attended the religious event in Malaysia.
MUIS has also advised congregants who feel unwell to stay home instead of attending the Friday prayers at mosques, stating that it is religiously allowed to do so.
Malaysia, however, has said there was no need to suspend the Friday prayers as the COVID-19 situation in the country is under control. Authorities have allowed it to proceed with measures like shortening of the sermon.
When asked to comment on this, Mr Masagos said: “Why must we follow people who may not be doing the right (thing)?
“We should follow what we need for Singapore and Singaporeans. We are not just protecting Muslims. We are protecting the nation and to make sure that our practice of preventing the spread of the virus is the standard that Singapore will be reputed for.”