A Singapore church with a congregation of 16,000 will stop holding its conventional services this weekend due to the rising number of coronavirus cases in the city-state and will instead broadcast its lively, gospel-style preaching online.
The decision by City Harvest Church, one of the most profitable churches in Asia which has been mired in a corruption scandal in recent years, comes after Singapore reported its biggest jump in cases to date on Thursday – up eight to 58 – with several clusters linked to church gatherings.
“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 said in a Facebook video referring to the disease by its technical name.
“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 religious groups have been cancelling activities across the multi-faith island nation, while the government has advised business to defer or cancel all non-essential, large-scale events.
Authorities have been trying to calm unease after they raised the virus alert level last week and triggered panic-buying of items like rice and toilet paper.
The outbreak has revived memories of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome in 2003 which killed more than 30 people in Singapore and nearly 800 worldwide.
(Reporting by John Geddie)