POLL | Should religious leaders be considered 'essential frontline workers'?

28 May 2020 - 06:00 By Unathi Nkanjeni
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that churches, mosques and synagogues will resume from June 1.
President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that churches, mosques and synagogues will resume from June 1.
Image: phartisan/123RF

The reopening of churches has been a hot topic, after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that places of worship may reopen from June 1, when the country moves to level 3 lockdown.

Ramaphosa said religious leaders will now be recognised as “essential religious frontline workers” for purposes of spiritual counselling to members of their faith organisations.

The announcement was made on Tuesday, after Ramaphosa met the national coronavirus command council, which considered the inputs made by the religious sector in recent consultations with interfaith leaders.

Ramaphosa said social distancing would have to be observed and all worshippers would have to wear face masks in line with the regulations.

“All religious organisations must put protocols in place for, among other things, thoroughly cleaning and sanitising places for worship before and after services.

“Our faith communities must ensure that any religious rituals that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshippers to risk should be avoided and that where they form an essential part of religious practice, that sanitisation is paramount,” he added.

Reactions from politicians

EFF's Mbuyiseni Ndlozi slammed the decision, asking how the regulations would be enforced.

“Now, what about all those with Covid-19 who will be flocking to the church to ask for healing?” he asked. “How will a church determine which 50 people must come to church? And when the Holy Spirit enters a person or makes a person fall, how will they ensure social distancing?”

DA shadow trade minister Dean Macpherson said “you can go to church but you can’t get your hair cut? How does this make sense anymore? Would love to see where on the government's scientific Covid-19 model. It plots the opening of churches vs restaurants and hairdressers.”

One SA Movement leader Mmusi Maimane said high-risk activities for the spread of the virus should not be allowed at this time.

“I do have serious concerns and reservations about the reopening of churches. The duty of care that a pastor has in society is that of a good shepherd.

“We have a curve that is not flattening in many parts of the country and that is a serious issue of life and death. High-risk activities for the spread of the virus should not be allowed at this time. Especially when the permission is given haphazardly.”


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