Guidelines developed to ensure congregants' safety as places of worship reopen

31 May 2020 - 00:00 By ZIMASA MATIWANE
Religious leaders are preparing to welcome worshippers amid level 3 restrictions.
Religious leaders are preparing to welcome worshippers amid level 3 restrictions.
Image: 123RF/Goran Bogicevic

Religious leaders are working around the clock to ensure the safety of congregants is not compromised when places of worship open under level 3 of the lockdown.

The South African Hindu Maha Sabha has developed guidelines for temples to conform with lockdown regulations. SAHMS president Ashwin Trikamjee said a Covid-19 subcommittee will be established at temples across SA to oversee compliance.

"The maximum number of persons may not exceed 50, including priests, temple officials and staff. By using digital media like WhatsApp, an advanced register of attendees can be developed, and if capacity is reached this can be communicated to the congregation to avoid possible unpleasant situations," he said.

Devotees must wear masks and observe social distancing. A register of all those attending and a log of where everyone sits must be kept.

Trikamjee said temples that are unable to comply with the protocols have been asked to postpone opening.

The Muslim Judicial Council discourages the reopening of mosques, but the Jamiatul Ulama of SA (Council of Muslim Theologians) has endorsed the move. Jusa's Moulana Ebrahim I Bham has ordered mosques to open for daily prayers, with a rotation system for congregational prayers in multiple time slots.

A volunteer team will be selected to manage congregational attendance. People's temperatures will be taken, masks must be worn, and a register will be kept.

"It is recommended that the place of sajdah [the act of bowing low] be covered with a disposable sheet or a personal prayer mat.

"The elderly, sickly and those with weak immunity are urged to perform their Salaah at home," said Bham.

The national director of the South African Jewish Board of Deputies, Wendy Kahn, said a consultative process is under way with rabbis and medical experts regarding the opening of synagogues

"We are quite concerned in terms of the risks of opening places of worship. Obviously regulations will need to be studied very carefully by the rabbis to find the safest and most responsible way to proceed," she said.

The Zion Christian Church has decided to remain closed.

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