'Places of worship may reopen': Ramaphosa

26 May 2020 - 19:48 By Zingisa Mvumvu
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo.
President Cyril Ramaphosa. File photo.
Image: GCIS

Churches, mosques, temples, synagogues and other places of worship will be allowed to open their doors from June 1.

And services rendered by religious leaders, including spiritual counselling to individual congregants at their homes, will also fall under the essential service category under lockdown level 3.

"Places of worship may reopen, subject to strict restrictions - which are absolutely necessary if we are to prevent infections from rising," President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday night.

"Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other recognised places of worship may resume services. But these will be limited in size to 50 people or less, depending on the space available." 

During his national address on Sunday, Ramaphosa said the government had "fruitful discussions" with the religious community over the opening of spiritual worship and counselling services "subject to certain norms and standards".

"We have all agreed to have further discussions on this issue and are confident we will find a workable solution," he said.

Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that the national coronavirus command council had decided to "accede to the proposals" made by religious leaders, in accordance with "certain norms and standards".

The easing of restrictions on religious practises, said Ramaphosa, will have to follow stringent measures aimed at minimising risk of contracting the coronavirus.

This would include not allowing more than 50 people to attending a service. Moreover, places of worship would have to be constantly sanitised - before and after every service.

It remains unclear, however, how the government will enforce these rules in every single place of worship across the country.

"The current restrictions on congregational worship will be eased in a carefully measured way. Social distancing will have to be observed, and all worshipers and participants will have to wear face masks, in line with the current regulations," said the president.

"Religious organisations must put protocols in place for, among other things, thoroughly cleaning and sanitising places of worship before and after services. And faith communities must ensure that any religious rituals that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshippers to risk should be avoided."

Ramaphosa also sang the praises of the role played by religious leaders since the Covid-19 outbreak. He thanked them for being of assistance to communities by providing spiritual upliftment and helping the poor with food parcels.

"We welcome the offers that our religious leaders have made to make their facilities available for the fight against coronavirus by providing additional space for school lessons, for quarantine, for screening and testing, and for places of shelter for survivors of gender-based violence. This we are grateful for," he said.

"This new phase of managing the coronavirus as a constant feature in our daily lives will be in many respects more difficult."

The president declared Sunday May 31 as a national day of prayer against Covid-19.

"On this day, wherever we may be, I call upon all of us to turn our thoughts to all who have been affected by this pandemic, to also turn our thoughts to the families of those who have lost their loved ones. On this day, we should remember those who are working to keep us safe, and those who are suffering and grieving."


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