Thursday 9 July, 2020

New guidelines for churches, religious organisations due to COVID-19

St James Parish Church (FILE)

St James Parish Church (FILE)

When worship resumes in Barbados across the various religions it will not be the usual old routine of song, chant, sermon and praise.

Churches and other faith-based organizations which have been permitted to resume worship services from June 1, 2020, must do so under a list of guidelines issued within the most recent directive.

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Last Thursday (May 28), in speaking at a press conference Attorney General Dale Marshall indicated that such entities would be subjected to “heavier than usual” requirements which would govern the conditions under which they would be permitted to reopen. At that time the AG had stated that the protocols were still being finalized.

Yesterday (May 30), the Official Gazette was published on the Government Information Service (GIS) website with a plethora of conditions under which religious institutions can conduct services. Apart from the new face-covering protocol, the sanitizing of hands and taking of temperatures before entry, churches must also adhere to the following:

  1. Each worshipper shall have at least 40 square feet of space for himself in the church unless they are members of the same household;
  2. Services shall be no longer than one hour in duration;
  3. No air-conditioning shall be used and windows and doors shall be kept open to allow for ventilation;
  4. No hymnals, Bibles, leaflets or other materials shall be distributed to worshippers but worshipers may take their own;
  5. There shall be no separate children’s face-to-face programme (eg Sunday School)
  6. There shall be no rituals that involve touching, including baptism or christening, laying on of hands, anointing, confirmation, or dedication;
  7. a record shall be kept of all persons who attend every service and shall be available for inspection by the Chief Medical Officer or his designated officer
  8. Where multiple services are held on the same day, at least one hour shall be allowed between services for a full sanitisation of the interior of the church, including all internal and external bathrooms, fixtures and equipment
  9. Signage shall be placed in conspicuous locations outside and within every church and the minister shall make announcements explaining the protocols to be followed before the commencement of every service
  10. Areas used by persons who become ill shall be closed for at least 24 hours and shall be thoroughly sanitised before use by others

Physical distancing protocols must be observed and congregating is prohibited both inside and outside of the religious building whether before or after services. The full list of guidelines may be downloaded here.

Among the 92 positive cases of COVID-19 on the island, a second cluster of cases originated from a Bridgetown-based church. Among the 30 members that were eventually tested, five persons returned positive results for the coronavirus disease 2019.

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