President Cyril Ramaphosa has announced that religious gatherings of no more that 50 people will be allowed when the country shifts to lockdown Level 3 next week.
Places of worship may reopen subject to strict restrictions. All “recognised places of worship” may only hold up to 50 people, depending on the size of the premises, and these places must also observe social distancing.
All congregants must wear face masks, and religious organisations must ensure their premises are cleaned before and after services. Religious practices that carry risk must be avoided, Ramaphosa said.
Religious figures will be considered “essential services”, who provide frontline spiritual relief. They will be allowed to officiate at funerals.
The president said some religious leaders have offered to make their premises available for screening, school lessons and for sheltering people. Ramaphosa was addressing the country after having met with religious leaders.
He also informed the nation of the National Day of Prayer, where the country will hold a mass prayer on May 31 for the coronavirus pandemic.
He said religious organisations have played a role in reminding people that the lockdowns were in place for the common good of all South Africans.
Religious leaders made a number of representations to the government.
“We have a responsibility to take care of the spritual, psychological and emotional side of the pandemic,” he said.
“South Africans are people of deep faith,” he said, adding that religious organisations had made a great contribution to the Covid-19 fight so far, including social relief and spiritual support.
Ramaphosa said more than 20 000 people had contracted Covid-19 and almost 500 had died.
The president said the coronavirus had knocked people emotionally.
“Families are struggling to make ends meet … people’s sources of income have dried up,” Ramaphosa said. “Yet even at this time of crisis, we have cared for each other.”