A 16,000-member megachurch in Singapore has suspended all its services as the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc across the region.
The number of those infected by the deadly virus has jumped to 75 in recent days, prompting many places of worship to close their doors in a bid to reduce the risk of infection.
City Harvest Church — one of the largest congregations in Asia — encouraged its members to engage with sermons online after announcing that their church doors would be closed for the time being.
“The leadership has been deliberating over what is the wisest and most responsible thing to do for our church in view of the increasing number of cases of COVID-19 in this past week,” Reverend Ho Yeow Sun announced in a Facebook video, according to the Bangkok Post.
In a statement, the church said:
“This is not an easy decision for us to make … But our congregation is not small, and we have members young and old. As leaders, we feel strongly that we must do what we can to protect our flock, as the risk of infection is relatively high right now.”
“This is a temporary measure. I look forward to the day when the situation stabilizes and we can all come back together for service again.”
Several other places of worship — including the Grace Assembly of God church and the Life Church and Missions Singapore — have also decided to shut down their ministry operations, with cases even being confirmed at various churches.
On Wednesday, it was confirmed that two Grace Assembly employees had contracted the coronavirus. By Friday, another six cases had been linked to the church and five cases the day before, bringing the total to 13.
Announcing their own service suspensions, Faith Community Baptist Church said: “The spike in the number of confirmed cases this past week in various places such as Marina Bay Financial Centre and Grace Assembly of God got our attention.”
On Friday, the Catholic Church in Singapore announced it would be indefinitely suspending all public masses, according to South China Morning Post.
As part of his announcement, Archbishop William Goh, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore, reavealed that administrators had considered a mass temperature-screening for those attending services, before lamenting that temperature-taking was “not a foolproof screening tool.”
“Implementing temperature screening may not entirely help prevent the spread of this infection even though it does mitigate the possibility of its transmission,” Goh said, according to The Straits Times.
“As Catholics, we need to be responsible in playing our part to contain the spread of this virus by avoiding large gatherings of people.”
The latest figures released by Chinese health officials show that over 70,000 people have been infected with the virus. So far, the country has suffered 1,770 fatalities as a result of the respiratory illness.
Last week, Hong Kong’s leading public health epidemiologist warned that the Coronavirus could go on to infect 60% of the world’s population if it cannot be adequately controlled.
Speaking to the Guardian as he headed to an expert meeting at the World Health Organization in Geneva on Tuesday, Prof Gabriel Leung questioned the sustainability of the massive public health measures taken by the Chinese authorities would be sustainable.
“How long can you lock down an entire city for?” he asked. “How long can you keep people away from shopping malls? And if you remove those [restrictions], then is it all going to come right back and rage again? So those are very real questions.”
Hundreds of Americans who had been passengers on a cruise ship that was struck down with 356 confirmed cases of the virus have finally been brought home to the United States via a series of chartered flights. Fourteen of the American evacuees who were onboard the Diamond Princess in Japan are confirmed to have the illness and have been quarantined. All those evacuated have been flown to various military bases across the country for screening and treatment
Do continue to pray for all those affected by this dreadful illness.