The South African government on Friday unveiled guidelines for religious gatherings after the country eases COVID-19 lockdown restrictions.
After wide consultations with the religious sector, the government is now in a position to categorize religious counselling as an essential service, said Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.
This will enable the millions who have been affected by the virus to receive this much-needed service since the majority cannot afford professional attention of this nature, the minister said.
Religious gatherings such as church services will be permitted and the phased re-opening will start from June 1, with a maximum of 50 congregants, and venues should be able to accommodate such requirements, Dlamini-Zuma said.
Religious organizations should, where possible, convene services through virtual platforms, she said.
“Health and safety measures at places of worship should be made a priority, as such all religious leaders or persons in charge must develop plans and protocols on how they will manage the re-opening, whilst ensuring that there are not more than 50 persons within the place of worship at a time,” the minister said.
The religious leaders or persons in charge should ensure health, hygiene, social distancing are observed and ensure that every person entering a place of worship wears a cloth face mask covering both mouth and nose, Dlamini-Zuma said.
Washing of hands or sanitization should be undertaken prior to worship and continually in between the service, she added.
Places of worship are required to keep a register which must be retained for a period of six months detailing names, contact details, residential address and contact persons, according to Dlamini-Zuma.
Under the regulations, anyone who presents symptoms such as cough, fever, sore throat, shortness of breath, or difficulty breathing should not be allowed to enter a place of worship, and any persons over the age of 60 years and those with co-morbidities are encouraged to continue worshiping at home.
“All religious organizations are required to establish COVID-19 committees to establish their state of readiness and to verify the existence of the plans required in terms of these directions before opening for services,” the minister said.