The Federal Government on Tuesday released the guidelines for religious centres to resume activities in the country.
National Coordinator, Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, Sani Aliyu, at the briefing of the PTF, warned that notwithstanding the lifting of ban on religious gatherings, it is safer for people to worship at home.
“The federal government decided to reopen worship centres under specific guidelines but if you can worship at home, please do so because it is safer to worship at home.
“It is better to stay at home and worship than to go to a place of worship.
“In view of the widespread community transmission of COVID-19, it is important that places of worship operate in a safe manner to ensure the protection of public health, avoid outbreaks and safeguard the health of the vulnerable members of the population.
“To this end, the following guidelines have been developed as a minimum set of standards that have to be complied with for places of worship to safely operate nationwide.
“They’ve been developed by the PTF in liaison with the leadership of religious communities in the country and should be used as a baseline for states to allow these activities,” Aliyu said.
According to him, due to the nature of religious congregations, places of worship are particularly recognised to have a major potential for spreading COVID-19 infections amongst worshippers.
“Therefore places of worship that are not able to comply with these measures should not be allowed to operate by state governments.”
Aliyu said all places of worship must sign up to full compliance with all aspects of non-pharmaceutical interventions required to protect the public from COVID-19, including but not limited to ensuring the supply of running water and soap, alcohol sanitizers at entry and exit points in all high contact locations including bathrooms.
“There should be no social gathering after or before worship; frequent cleaning and disinfection of places of worship are advised; places of worship should keep detailed records of their worshippers, including contact addresses.
“Therefore, places of worship that are not able to comply with these measures should not be allowed to operate by state governments.”
“Worshippers must sanitise their hands before entry; worshippers must have temperature checks before entry and the supervision and the enforcement of this will be led by the leaders of these facilities; use of face masks is mandatory.
“Strongly discourage all close contacts including shaking hands, hugging, using prayer mats, musical organs, microphones etc; the capacity of the facility should be limited to allow physical distancing of at least two meters between persons.
“Facilities should consider the use of cloth or surface markings to guide distancing and people from the same household should be encouraged to stay together. “Local arrangements will apply to the capacity of these facilities but the most important thing is to make sure that the physical distancing rule applies.
“Local authorities will be advised in terms of areas of hotspots that might require greater restrictions; volunteers should be limited to exact numbers needed and none of the volunteers should have underlying medical conditions or be above the age of 55 years.
He said that responsibility for enforcement will be with the leadership of the church or mosque committees and supported by local authorities including state governments. Aliyu said churches are to open from 5am and close by 8pm.
“For churches, each service should be for a maximum of an hour with an interval of thirty minutes in between services to allow time for disinfection “Mosques may open 15 minutes before and ten minutes after prayers.
“The total time for Friday prayers should not exceed an hour.
“Islamiya schools, Sunday schools, night vigils, and children classes are to remain suspended; worshippers should be encouraged to sign up for preferred worship and make the option of virtual service an option.
“There should be no gathering either or after worship and business outlets within the premises should remain closed. “Windows should be left open during services and preferably use open-air facility as much as possible,” Aliyu said.
“We’re strongly advising vulnerable people with underlying conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases to please stay at home.”