The Federal Government has insisted that it is better and safer for Nigerians to pray at home in the light of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, despite lifting the ban on religious gatherings.
Sani Aliyu, the National Coordinator of the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19, stated this at the committee’s daily press briefing in Abuja on Tuesday.
Boss Mustapha, Chairman of the PTF, had on Monday announced the lifting of restrictions on worship places, over two months after the ban was imposed by President Muhammadu Buhari as part of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
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But explaining the rationale behind the reopening, Aliyu said worship centres can operate in as much as they follow specific guidelines issued by the Federal Government.
He, however, warned that COVID-19 could easily spread at religious events due to the nature of their centres and urged Nigerians to worship at home, if possible.
He said: “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,” he said.
“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 have 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.
“It is important to note that 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.”
The PTF later issued the guidelines for the reopening of worship centres.
Read the guidelines published below:
1. Places of worship must comply with all non-pharmaceutical measures such as mandatory use of face mask by worshippers, hand washing spots at the entrances, hand sanitizers with at least Sixty per cent alcohol content and mandatory temperature checks.
2. Facilities should be structured in a way that physical distancing is observed.
3. Worshippers are advised not to touch each other in a manner such as hugging, shaking, kissing etc.
4. Families are advised to stay together during the worship services.
5. Church/mosque volunteers (ushers, choir, security etc.) that have underlying illnesses should not be allowed to serve.
6. The time for worship services should not be more than one hour.
7. Churches/mosques with high number of worshippers can divide their services into two or three depending on the number to ensure physical distancing, and should have break of at least 30mins between the services to allow worshippers wash their hands or to disinfect the centres.
8. Mosques are to open 20mins before prayers and close 20mins after prayers.
9. No Islamiya schools.
10. Prayer sections should be staggered.
11. Worship centres should have different entry and exit points.
12. No social gatherings before or after services.
13. Business outlets at worship centres should remain closed.
14. The elderly above 55 are advised to observe their worship services at home.
15. Churches/Mosques should improve their environmental hygiene.
16. Windows should be left open during services, as it’s more dangerous to hold services in enclosed places.
17. Open-air services are preferable.
18. There should be frequent cleaning of centres.
19. Surfaces should be cleaned with diluted bleach.
20. Worshippers with COVID19 symptoms should not go to places of worship.
21. Churches/Mosques should keep record of staff and worshippers for contact tracing purposes.
22. Persons identified with high temperature after a temperature check should be turned back.
23. It is better to stay at home and worship than to go to worship centres.