COVID-19: All Precautionary Measures in Place Before Re-opening Places of Worship

As some churches and a gurudwara reopen for the faithful in the UAE, there has been strict disinfection drives and distance protocols implemented in Jebel Ali and Dubai.

Massive disinfection drives have been set into motion and other measures to ensure a safe environment for the congregants. Speaking to Gulf News, Fr Ninan Philip Panackamattam, vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Oud Metha, said, “We commend the efforts of the Community Development Authority (CDA) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to outline a clear plan of action to avoid any mishaps when we reopen.”

He further added, “We have taken special care to abide by the guidelines notified by the CDA, which includes complete fumigation and disinfection drive inside and within the church premises; the creation of a blueprint to define the entry and exit plans of the worshippers; introduction of five services in addition to the Friday morning mass; as well as the setting up of a thermal scanner and temperature check system at the entry points,”.

The church has set up an online registration system to divide the members of the parish into different groups for attending worship, and they have attached stickers at a two-meter distance to adhere to the social distancing norms. St Mary’s Catholic Church has also drafted a detailed health and safety plan, in accordance with the CDA guidelines which will be implemented upon approval. Rev. Harrison Chinnakumar, the chaplain of Holy Trinity Church in Oud Metha, said they will be engaging in an intensive cleaning drive before opening up for service.

The safety guidelines

As per various church bulletins, churches will be open for only 50% of the usual occupancy level prior to the pandemic with the places of worship being open only for the specific prayer timings alone. The guidelines also stipulate that there should be two separate lines for the entry and exit of people. Worshippers should practise physical distancing at all times to avoid overcrowding by all means.

Worshippers should also be checked for the temperatures readings before entering the place of worship. Any person with an elevated temperature above 37.5 degrees Celsius will not be permitted to enter the premises. The service will start exactly at the agreed time with the premises closed as soon as the prayer is over.

Masks or gloves will not be distributed at the entrance, neither will there be food donations or distribution within or around the premises of places of worship. Doors and windows shall be kept open from the beginning until the closure of the prayers.

The guidelines also call for intensive and regular cleansing along with the placement of covered bins for the proper disposal of used masks and other waste. All washrooms and ablution areas will remain closed in the places of worship.

Worshippers need to adhere to strict physical distancing norms with a two-meter distance between one another.

Worshippers need to wear masks plus gloves at all times and they have to bring their own prayer books and other prayer-related paraphernalia. People are not allowed to shake hands or have any physical contact with each other. Nor can they gather before or after the prayers but need to leave the premises as soon as the service is over.

Congregation members who have been in contact with any positive COVID-19 patient should not enter the place of worship. Those with chronic diseases and prone to infections should also not enter the place of worship, along with children under 12 years or younger and elderly over 60 years old.

Awaiting the green signal

Chairman of Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara in Jebel Ali, Surender Singh Kandhari has informed that an inspection was conducted at the temple along with CDA inspectors.

Kandhari assured, “The inspectors said we did a fantastic job in setting up, among others, a sanitising tunnel and thermal scanners.”
Safety reminders have been at prominent places along with hand sanitisers at strategic areas. The faithful have been informed to wear to masks at all times with fumigations at regular intervals. “We are taking full precautions and we are just waiting for the green light from the CDA to re-open soon,” Kandhari stated.