Some churches unsure of Covid-19 limits, with religious gatherings set to start this weekend

There will be no church service at the famous Regina Mundi Church in Rockville, Soweto, as the Anglican Church in SA has decided to delay resumption of services.. /Veli Nhlapo.
There will be no church service at the famous Regina Mundi Church in Rockville, Soweto, as the Anglican Church in SA has decided to delay resumption of services.. /Veli Nhlapo.

It is going to be a new environment for worshippers when they attend churches on Sunday as religious gatherings begin for the first time in two months, albeit still under strict regulations of the national lockdown.

The government allowed churches to open their doors for services under alert level 3 but placed a lid on attendance to 50 people. Churches which held services through online platforms will continue doing so even at level 3 and are not obliged to have gatherings.

According to the directives by cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, health and safety measures will have to be implemented in the places of worship before services can resume.

The religious leaders or persons in charge should ensure that health, hygiene and social distancing are observed and that every person entering a place of worship wears a face mask covering both mouth and nose. Leaders must develop a plan for their gatherings which incorporates all the directives of government.

The directives further state that all religious services may not exceed two hours with a 30-minute intermission between services.

Every person entering must be screened for symptoms associated with Covid-19, namely fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty in breathing.

The church must also require every person to report if they suffer from symptoms such as body aches, loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and fatigue.

If a person confirms some of these health problems, they should not be allowed inside. If a person is already in the church premises, they have to be isolated.

Religious leaders must also ensure that there is no physical contact between all people at the place of worship. There must be a minimum of 1.5m between each person.

Singing of hymns is limited to solo performance or prerecorded performances during the religious service.

Any religious activity that requires contact such as the laying of hands is prohibited.

People counting offerings must sanitise their hands before, during and after counting the money. These people should ensure that they do not touch their face while counting the money.

People over the age of 60 and those with comorbidities are encouraged to worship from home.

The church must keep a register which must be retained for six months of everyone who attends the service with details such as full names, residential address and cellphone number.

All surfaces and equipment must be cleaned before and after the service.

Some churches have read the directives and are getting ready to open come Sunday.

Grace Bible Church Bishop Mosa Sono said there would be a service on Sunday of 50 people including himself.

"The service will be aired on social platforms just as it has been taking place during the entire national lockdown.

"The only difference is that there will be those 49 people attending the service. It is going to be a one-hour long service," Sono said.

Other churches have decided to delay their resumption of services. Among them is the Anglican Church.

Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town Thabo Makgoba told eNCA the church was looking into a phased-in reopening of services.

"We need to look at what do we require - a limit of 50 [people] in services. How will that work, who is going to be employed to disinfect our church between services?

"How do we prepare for physical distancing in services and how do we avoid shared prayer and hymn books? Where do we procure masks and how will the restriction on singing work? There is a lot of detail that we need to effect," Makgoba said.

Makgoba said the church was looking at utilising other days such as the Corpus Christi taking place on Thursday to start the services.

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