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Places of worship to open at Level 3 lockdown

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Churches, mosques and synagogues may resume religious services as long as these are limited to 50 people or less.

CHURCHES, mosques and synagogues may resume religious services as long as these are limited to 50 people or less, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday night.

The president’s announcement comes after a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council which considered the inputs made by the religious sector in recent consultations with interfaith leaders.

He cautioned that all precautions must be taken to ensure the safety of congregants and that the wearing of masks was compulsory. 

“Any religious rituals that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshipers to risk should be avoided and that where they form an essential part of religious practice, that sanitation is paramount,” Ramaphosa said.

Religious leaders will be recognised as essential religious frontline workers for the purpose of spiritual counselling for members of their faith organisations, he said.

Ramaphosa also announced a national day of prayer on Sunday, May 31, where all religious leaders and members of faith-based organisations are invited to pray for the country which has been hardest hit in Africa by the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Monday, the KwaZulu-Natal Christian Council called on government to either offer relief funding for religious leaders or to allow churches to open under strict conditions.

Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, the council’s chairperson, said government had made funds available to business sectors that would lose money during the national lockdown and argued that church leaders, who would have no income during this time, should be afforded the same assistance.

“It is up to the government to say whether we churches join in the existing funding systems, or they set up another fund specifically to assist us. When they are looking for people who need relief, the government must not forget the church leaders as well,” Napier said.