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CHURCHES TO OPERATE AT 30% CAPACITY

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MBABANE – Churches are expected to operate at 30 per cent holding capacity. This is contained in a variation of gatherings directive of 2020 as part of the COVID-19 regulations which will regulate the operation of churches. The regulations were released by the Ministry of Home Affairs yesterday during a training session of different stakeholders and religious bodies on gatherings under COVID-19 regulations.


The regulations come after an announcement by the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, on the relaxation of the number of people allowed in gatherings last Friday.  The regulations were presented by the Ministry of Home Affairs Under Secretary, Arnold Dlamini, who was representing Minister, Princess Lindiwe.


Worship


The regulations read; “The maximum number of people who may be present at a place of worship on the day of worship shall be the equivalent of 30 per cent of the total holding capacity of the relevant place of worship.”


The regulations state that a person in charge of or taking part in a religious gathering shall ensure that the place of worship is fumigated so as to ascertain disinfection of the worship area, paying particular attention to door knobs, microphones and other frequently touched objects and surfaces.


This essentially means that if a church has a capacity of 100 people, only 30 will be allowed to worship. Should the church’s capacity be 300, for instance, 90 worshippers will be allowed.


Worshippers, according to the regulations, would be expected to have an attendance register with contact details of the individual, next of kin and physical addresses for ease of contact tracing should any member test positive. 

The regulations also state that the place of worship is supposed to have appropriate ventilation to increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible. That includes the opening of windows and doors. “At every place of worship, signs are to be placed in a conspicuous manner, stating that there should be no physical contact among persons either by way of shaking of hands or exchange of hugs whatsoever,” reads part of the regulations.


Screened


The regulations also state that a person entering a place of worship should be screened by trained personnel and their hands sanitised while maintaining a social distance of two metres apart, through the use of tapes, the removal of chairs and the use of cones or other marking tools, to depict the required social distancing.  Worshippers are expected to wear their face masks throughout the duration of the service while religious rites that allow contact or spitting are not allowed. Those rites include the laying of hands, touching, or other religious practices. 


Also, sharing of microphones, Bibles, Qurans, hymn books, information cards and stationery is not allowed. Every person, according to the regulations, is expected to bring their own.
 While most churches have ushers who circulate containers for worshippers to put in their offerings and pass to the next person, the regulations do not recommend that. The regulations state that where collection of offering using electronic methods is not used, a stationary collection box is supposed to be made available and stringent adherence to social distancing be maintained during the offering exercise.


“Persons with a sign of fever or flu-like-symptoms are not expected to attend sessions at places of worship,” further reads the regulations. Meanwhile, the duration of each session is not supposed to exceed two hours and worshippers are expected to immediately and orderly disperse afterwards while maintaining social distancing.

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