Rules for Churches during the Pandemic

Religious leaders must ensure that "singing of hymns is limited to solo performances, or pre-recorded performances only," according to regulations for places of worship from cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma.

The rules follow President Cyril Ramaphosa's announcement on Tuesday night that "churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other recognised places of worship" will be able to reopen from 1 June.

As Ramaphosa announced, the regulations limit services to a maximum of 50 people at a time. In a new development, the rules also limit services to a maximum of two hours each, with an "intermission" of 30 minutes between each service.

Face masks are compulsory for anyone to enter any public place – but the rules for religions has an exception to that otherwise iron-clad rule.

Under ordinary circumstances, where everyone wears a mask, congregants will be required to stay at least 1.5 meters away from one another, the regulations say.

But "where the religious activity, such as preaching or leading worship, cannot be performed with face masks, the distance between persons must be increased to 2.5 meters."

That is despite a separate rule that says face masks are "compulsory for the duration of any religious activity."

A different exception did not make it into the rules. On Tuesday Ramaphosa said religious rituals "that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshippers to risk should be avoided."

He immediately suggested the state will not be deciding which rituals are dangerous, saying that sanitisation is a must for risky rituals “where they form an essential part of religious practice”.

However, the rules published on Thursday has a clear ban on one type of ritual.

"Any religious ritual that requires personal contact may not be performed during any religious activity," the regulations say.

In other rules:

  • Religious organisations are urged, "where possible", to hold online services.

  • Anyone "counting offerings or gifts" must sanitise their hands "before, during and after the counting of offerings and gifts and must ensure that he or she does not touch his or her face during the process."

  • No objects or equipment may be shared between people, specifically including "religious scriptures".


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