Churches re-open under strict conditions
The Oversight Committee (OSC) has given the thumbs up for churches to resume face to face church services but it comes with strict conditions.
In a letter addressed to churches by the OSC chairman, James Remobatu, churches are immediately reopen for face to face services on incremental basis.
The OSC encourages people to be fully vaccinated to attend church services. Church leaders must also encourage members of their denominations to get themselves fully vaccinated.
The OSC advised that in emergency zone areas, church goers will be limited depending on the size of the church.
The OSC emphasized that a worshiper must be 2 meters apart in all directions from others, or churches must adhere to the equation where an area of a church (square meters) is divided by 4 to give the number of worshippers in a church.
“For instance if the area of a church is 100 square meters, divide it by 4, you get 25. So only 25 people are allowed into the church. If the church has an area of 200 square meters divide it by 4 will give 50, only 50 will be allowed to sit in the church and so forth,” the OSC explained.
The OSC also emphasized the use of face masks and the 2 meters’ apart rule must be maintained at all times.
It however stressed that the number of worshippers can increase if people from the same bubble are attending the church service.
“People from the same bubble are those that are from the same house and travel to church in the same vehicle, they can sit together but two meters apart from others around them.”
Worshippers must wear face mask throughout the entire church service and that churches must have hand sanitizers at the entrance and exit points of the church.
The OSC also highlighted that churches must have proper washrooms that are equipped with disposal hand towels, disposal bins and hand sanitizers.
The Committee further advised that for churches that practice Holy Communion, church must encourage individual glasses for each worshippers and if possible, worshippers are served at where they are sitting.
Online platforms are also recommended to reach out to more congregation members or conduct several church services in a day, for instance, if a church can accommodate only 25 worshippers at a time, church leaders can consider delivering the same sermon to another 25 worshippers later in the day and so forth.
The OSC also recommends ‘time’ on the church service depending on the ventilation of the interior of a church.
“If a church is fully enclosed with only ceiling fans and fewer windows, it is recommended that the service should no longer than an hour, If a church has windows all around and with good airflow the service can be up to 90 minutes. If a church service is carried out in an open space, it can go on up to 2 hours,” the OSC advised.
The OSC strongly stated that church goers must adhere to the health protocols of wearing face masks, keeping two meters apart, washing hands with soaps or hand sanitizer and sneezing into elbows.
The OSC also highlighted that funeral services are not allowed at areas that have community transmission. A deceased must be taken straight to the burial site from the deceased’s place of death.
In areas that are COVID- 19 free, the OSC advised that normal church service or programs can continue.
The OSC strongly advised that each church is responsible for monitoring and implementing the advice given and that each church must submit their plan to OSC on how they are observing the advice given.
Denominations who are not members of SICA and SIFGA must also follow the same process and seek assistance from MHMS.
The national government through the Oversight Committee (OSC) commended the churches for their support in observing the guidelines.
The OSC highlighted that the restrictions placed on churches are a result of the COVID- 19 community transmission.
The Ministry of Health and Medical Service will advise when the situation improves so as to relax restrictions.