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An internet photo of an empty church.
An internet photo of an empty church.
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The National Emergency Management Organisation (NEMO) has announced an easing of restriction on the number of persons who can gather at churches and other places of worship.

However, other indoor gatherings continue to be restricted to 10 persons and outdoor gatherings to 20 persons, according to the latest protocol, which will be in effect until March 27. 

Outdoor gatherings include open air crusades, block-o-ramas, outdoor fetes, gatherings around open bars (e.g. Heritage Square), gatherings with direct access to the courtyard or large yard or a large pool area, catamaran cruises, beach, funerals and river picnics.

Indoor gatherings include in door church services, concerts, house parties, night clubs, meetings and boat rides on ferries.

Effective last Saturday, places of worship are now permitted to have indoor gatherings that are a maximum of one-third their regular capacity.

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“For example a place of congregation which normally accommodates 90 persons with adequate spacing may only have 30 persons,” NEMO said.

NEMO said there must be temperature checks of all congregants as they enter the venue.

“This function must be provided by the church,” NEMO said, adding that any congregant found to have a temperature greater than 100.1 degrees Fahrenheit must be referred immediately to the COVID-19 Hotline (534-4325).

Sufficient hand washing or hand sanitising stations (at a recommended ratio of no less than 1:20 persons) should be available for the duration of the gathering.

NEMO further said that the venue should have sufficient space to allow for at least 3-6 feet physical distancing between congregants or personal bubbles, and the free movement of congregants.

“Facial coverings must be worn by all congregants and provided where necessary.”

Further, to facilitate contact tracing, the church leader must record the name — as verified from the person’s national identity document — and contact number of each person entering the place of worship.

“This information should be securely stored for 28 days. The MOHWE (Ministry of Health Wellness and the Environment) will only access this information in the event that contact tracing involving the persons who attended the event is required,” NEMO said.

Adequate toilet facilitates with hygiene practices sufficiently maintained should be available at all events and all food safety protocols must be strictly adhered to.

“Compliance with the Public Health Act of 2020 and the Environmental Health Services Act of 1991 is required,” NEMO said.

Apart from the limitation on the size of the gathering, many of the protocols for indoor and outdoor gathering remain the same as those at places of worship.

Organisers of outdoor gatherings are also required to conduct temperature checks and keep a register of patrons.

“Facial coverings must be provided to all congregants/patrons/attendees. The use of facial coverings by the congregants/patrons/attendees is strongly recommended,” NEMO said.