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Covid-19 protocols #2: Reopening of churches


The Covid-19 protocols for churches came into effect from 14 May 2020. These protocols were developed through consultation with representation from different religious organisations. They were designed to last a maximum period of 14 days, after which new protocols were to be published.

In an effort to control the spread of the coronavirus, churches wishing to reopen their doors to church membership and the general public at this time, should be guided by the following protocols which come into effect from 28 May 2020 for a maximum of 14 days.

GENERAL GUIDELINES

  1. Complete and submit the online form (provided by the Ministry of Education, Human Resource Development, Religious Affairs and Information on May 14). This form provides information on what the church has put in place, or intends to put in place, to protect members and visitors as they enter the church building. Churches are only required to submit this form once, before the scheduled reopening date.
  2. Calculate the number of attendees to be allowed in the building. The measurement to be used is 36 square feet, per person (using the seating space). Markers must be used on benches, and chairs must be placed no less than 6 feet, in every direction. Families (individuals living in the same household) are exempted from the 6 feet physical distancing seating (in this instance) requirement and can sit together.
  3. Provide for each service, appropriate facilities and adequate supplies not limited to, but including handwashing facilities, clean running water, soap, paper towels, hand sanitiser and disinfectant. A sanitising station must be set up close to the door, for people entering and leaving the building.
  4. Establish a separate room in the building, or a space (inside the building, or outside) to accommodate an individual(s) who becomes sick during the service (with any Covid-19 symptoms). A vehicle can also be assigned to immediately transport a member(s) (without private transportation) who may become sick during the service. Additionally, the responsible party must Covid-19 Hotline immediately, to report the case and the Covid-19 signs displayed.
  5. Establish visible signs/notices encouraging members to observe the protocols and practices to prevent the spread Covid-19.
  6. Share protocols and expectations with all members, before the date of reopening.
  7. Church services are allowed on any day of the week, observing all protocols. Services should be kept to a maximum of 3 hours including departure time. Ministers of Religion must not continue a service, if members are not observing the protocols. Churches are encouraged to continue other activities remotely.
  8. More than one service can be held on the same day, however there must be at least one hour between each service, to facilitate proper sanitisation of the venue.
  9. Ensure that all individuals entering the building are wearing a mask and that it is worn for the duration of the service. When addressing the gathering, a speaker may remove his mask, but MUST observe physical distancing of at least 12 feet. If maintaining 12 feet (as mentioned previously if using feet (if not accompanied by a number, then please spell out the word) after the number, then use that throughout and vice versa for feet, to be consistent) is not practical based on the size of the church, the speaker must wear a mask.
  10. Due to the health related concerns, individuals with underlying health conditions, pregnant and nursing women, senior citizens, children under 10-years-old, and those who might not be able to wear a mask for the duration of the service are strongly encouraged to remain home, for the time being.
  11. Sanitise the building, before each service. Frequently touched areas must be carefully sanitised before, during and after each service. All cleaning products must be used according to the directions on the label. All cleaners must follow guidelines from the Ministry of Health. Masks and gloves must be used by cleaners, at all times.
  12. Ensure that transportation arrangements are in place, so that all individuals leave immediately after the service. The national regulations must be used to determine the number of individuals, from different homes, who can share a vehicle and the seating arrangements.
  13. Announce, to the hearing of all members present at each service (before, during and at the end), the hygiene, sanitation and physical distancing protocols to be followed.
  14. Strongly discourage all physical contact
  15. Use stationary boxes for the collection of monies and envelopes. Ensuring a distance of 6 feet is maintained between those who are going to the box. Ensure protocols are followed when handling monies, for example, the 6 feet physical distancing and use of appropriate hand sanitiser immediately after.
  16. Ensure that physical distancing is observed and hand sanitisers are used during communion services. Individuals involved in administration must wear gloves, or use hand sanitisers (containing at least 70% alcohol) in the administration of communion. For religions where communion is administered by ‘sharing of the cup’, please note that this is currently not allowed, as a health and safety precaution.
  17. Where microphones and podiums are used, they must be properly sanitised after each person uses them.
  18. Avoid the use of air conditioning (AC) units. Keep all windows and doors opened, during the service, if possible.
  19. Assign a member in each service, to monitor the observation of all protocols. A copy of the protocols must be made available to that person, who should also be given the responsibility to keep a record of the name, address and contact number of every person attending each service.

FUNERALS

  1. Funerals services (at the church, or graveside) will be private and by invitations only. The total number of invitees is to be decided, based on the size of the church and the protocol on physical distancing. However, a maximum of 20 invitees/individuals should be allowed in the church and at the graveside.
  2. No processions will be allowed.
  3. All other guidelines for health and safety, in the protocols for opening of churches, applies.

BAPTISMS

Baptisms can be done, but the following must be used in guiding the process:

  1. Wearing of appropriate masks
  2. Sanitising of hands
  3. Wearing of gloves

WEDDINGS

  1. Weddings will be private and by invitation only. The number of invitees/individuals at the service will be determined by the size of the church and the protocol for physical distancing. However, a maximum of 20 invitees/individuals should be allowed.
  2. No receptions will be allowed, during this period.
  3. All other guidelines for health and safety in the protocols, for opening of churches, applies.

OTHER CEREMONIES

All other ceremonies should be suspended, until further notice.

OPENING OF CHURCH OFFICES

  1. Church offices (community and national) can be opened to facilitate administrative, counselling and other services.
  2. All relevant protocols must be observed.

VIOLATIONS

Violations will be addressed through the regulations governing the state of emergency. The opportunity will be given to the head of the national organisation to which the church belongs (where it’s applicable), to put corrective measures in place, following a meeting with the authorities referred to in the regulations.

KEY POINTS FOR ANNOUNCEMENTS BEFORE & DURING SERVICES

  1. Maintain a 6 foot distance at all times.
  2. Stay home, if you are sick.
  3. Stay home if an individual/s from your household has/have been suspected, or was/were tested positive with Covid-19.
  4. Practice proper hygiene protocols. Wash hands often with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser that contains at least 70% alcohol, if soap and water are unavailable. Hand soaps must not be diluted.
  5. Cough and sneeze into tissue and discard the tissue, immediately after use, into a bin. If there is no tissue, cough into your inner elbow. Wash your hands immediately after coughing. Individuals must leave the building if they are coughing constantly.
  6. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  7. Avoid close physical contact with others.
  8. Wear an appropriate face mask, covering your nose and mouth, upon entering, leaving and while in the building.
  9. Stay informed and follow the advice given by the Ministry of Health.

For further clarification and details please call (473) 458-2580; (473) 410-6832 and (473) 458-7371 or email [email protected]

Ministry of Education

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