By Daniel Tyokua
The minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Malam Muhammad Musa Bello has asked churches and mosques in the territory to reopen for their activities in line with the health guidelines.
He gave the directives on Wednesday after a meeting of the FCT Administration and leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria and League of FCT Imams Initiative to review the guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force on COVID 19 particularly as they concern places of worship.
In a statement issued by Anthony Ogunleye, Chief press secretary to the minister, said the review followed briefings from the FCT COVID 19 Emergency Response Team on the situation of the pandemic in the nation’s Captial.
It said: “The report of the Committee set up by the honourable Minister on May 19 2020, to draw up protocols to be adopted for possible re-opening of places of worship, was equally received at the meeting and it gives the direction.
“The meeting agreed to adopt the guidelines as released by the Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 with regards to the re-opening of places of worship in the FCT under the second phase of the ease of lockdown for the next four weeks”
According to the statement, the Minister expressed the appreciation of the FCT Administration to the religious leaders for their cooperation and commitment towards a safe re-opening of places of worship in the territory.
He also urged residents to use the opportunity provided by the re-opening of Churches and Mosques to pray fervently for the early end to the Covid -19 pandemic.
The statement said the religious leaders expressed their appreciation to the FCT Administration for always consulting and taking into consideration the opinions of the religious organisations on important societal issues like the COVID-19 pandemic.
Meanwhile, the protocols guiding the re-opening of places of worship in the territory are, 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 sanitisers at entry and exit points and in all high-contact locations including bathrooms;
Others include worshippers must sanitise their hands before entry; Provision of temperature checks before entry; Mandatory use of face masks; Strongly discourage all close contact including shaking hands, hugging, kissing, handing out of materials and sharing of worship implements including prayer mats, musical organs, microphones.
The statement also advised churches and mosques within the FCT to limit the capacity of their facilities to allow for physical distancing of at least 2 meters between persons.
“Religious leaders are encouraged to consider the use of floor/surface markings to guide distancing and also encourage people from same household to stay together; Volunteers providing support at places of worship should be limited to exact numbers needed and none should have an underlying medical condition or be above the age of 55 years; and
“The leadership of the mosques/churches will be responsible for full compliance with these rules. Limit congregational contact times, with places of worship only opening for regular church and mosque services; Churches are to open from 5am and close by 8pm and each service shall be for a maximum of 1 hour with an interval of 30 mins in between services to allow time for disinfection;
“Mosques are to open 15 mins before Adhan and close 10 mins after prayers for the five prayers. Waiting period between Adhan and Iqamah should not be more than 10 minutes. Prayers are to be shortened to reduce duration of contact between congregations;
“For Friday prayers, mosques in the FCT are to open 20 minutes before prayers and close 20 minutes after prayers. Total time for Friday prayers including sermons should not exceed 1 hour;
“Islamiyah schools, All-Night Vigils, Sunday Schools and children activities are to remain suspended. For mosques, only the five daily prayers and Friday prayer services are allowed;
“Mass gatherings that make compliance with physical distancing impossible are not allowed. Prayer sessions should be staggered if necessary, to encourage greater opportunity for physical distancing. Worshippers are encouraged to sign up for preferred service time and virtual worship option should be made available;
“Churches and mosques should make provisions for separate entry and exit points and measures should be taken to direct the flow of people to avoid crowding and breach of physical distancing rules”.