JOHANNESBURG: Places of worship and other religious institutions in South Africa will reopen with strict restrictions from June 1 when the country enters the level 3 of the Covid-19 regulations, President Cyril Ramaphosa has said, acknowledging that their closure has “worsened” the distress of communities during the pandemic.
South Africa has been under a nationwide lockdown since March 27. The president had last month announced a five-phase plan to gradually ease the lockdown imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus in the country.
There are 23,615 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in South Africa with 481 deaths. A total 11,917 people have recovered from the disease.
The announcement to open the places of worship and other religious institutions came days after the president announced that the country will move down to level 3 of its five-level risk-based lockdown strategy from June 1.
“The current restrictions on congregational worship will be eased in a carefully measured way,” the president said on Tuesday.
“Places of worship may reopen subject to strict restrictions, which are absolutely necessary if we are to prevent infections from rising in accordance with norms and standards that will be set out in the regulations,” Ramaphosa said while explaining the restrictions.
Acknowledging the “great impact” closure of places of worship has on the community, the president said, “this has worsened the distress of communities who are unable to worship in congregation.”
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.
Social distancing will have to be observed and all worshippers and participants will have to wear face masks in line with the current regulations.
All religious organisations must put protocols in place for, among other things, thoroughly cleaning and sanitising places of worship before and after services.
Religious rituals that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshippers to the risk of contracting the virus should be avoided, and where they form an essential part of religious practice, sanitising will be critical.
Religious leaders will continue to officiate at funerals of no more than 50 people.
The president said that the National Coronavirus Command Council discussed the proposals given by the religious leaders to reopen the places of worship.
The council “determined that we should accede to the proposals put forward in accordance with certain norms and standards,” he said.
The president said that the religious leaders will be recognised as essential religious frontline workers for purposes of spiritual counselling to members of their faith organisations.
“We have a responsibility to also take care of the spiritual, psychological and emotional well-being of all South Africans,” he said.
He said that the faith community is an integral part of the South African life and has made a great contribution in the fight against the coronavirus.
“In such a time of crisis, the noble values that are shared by all faith communities have truly come to the fore – of charity and doing good works, of helping the needy, of feeding the hungry and caring for the sick,” he said.
“They have helped to keep our spirits up. They have encouraged us to remain focused. Above all, they have consistently reminded our people that the lockdown regulations are in place for the common good and the welfare of us all,” he said.
Ramaphosa said that religious leaders occupied positions of immense trust and authority in their communities, and therefore needed to play a proactive role in raising the level of public awareness around the coronavirus in their services, in faith communication groups, and through their pastoral work and activities.
The President also welcomed the offers that have been made by several religious bodies to make their facilities available for the fight against the coronavirus by providing additional space for school lessons, for quarantine, screening and testing or for providing shelter to survivors of gender-based violence.
“In helping our nation to cope with these difficulties, we acknowledge and welcome the call that has been made by our religious leaders for a National Day of Prayer (on May 31). Prayer will comfort and strengthen us as we continue to confront the pandemic,” Ramaphosa said.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *