Coronavirus: non-Muslim places of worship begin to reopen in Dubai

Catholic churches to remain closed until there is clarification on how worshippers can receive Holy Communion

A number of non-Muslim places of worship have begun to reopen in Dubai as Covid-19 restrictions gradually ease across the UAE.

The Community Development Authority confirmed on Thursday that prayers would be allowed to resume at a number of approved places of worship.

Conditions that must be met include a 30 per cent capacity cap, worshippers bringing their own prayer books and a ban on shaking hands. Worshippers must wear face masks at all times and will have their temperatures checked on entry.

Most mosques opened across the country, with these safety precautions in place, on Wednesday.

“We’ve seen a resumption of the places of worship for the prayers of all religions in Dubai,” said Dr Omar Al Muthanna, chief executive of the CDA Licensing and Monitoring Sector.

“The CDA studied the cultures and behaviours in each house of worship separately and special plans were developed to ensure the possibility of a safe and gradual return to prayer.”

We've seen a resumption of the places of worship for the prayers of all religions in the Emirate of Dubai

The Guru Darbar Sindhi Temple in Dubai was among the first to reopen on Wednesday morning when 80 worshippers were allowed entry, followed by 180 visitors in the evening.

The same number of people visited the temple on Thursday, taking part in two half-hour sittings – one in the morning and the other in the evening.

However, representatives of the two Catholic churches in the emirate, St Mary’s and St Francis of Assisi, confirmed they were still awaiting clarification on how Holy Communion could be received before reopening their doors.

The Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh temple in Dubai will welcome visitors again on Saturday morning for the first time since March.

Entry to the temple will only be available from 9 to 9.30am and 6 to 6.30pm, Saturday to Thursday.

A representative of the temple said they were expecting around 500 visitors on Friday.

Strict social distancing of standing at least 2 metres apart must also be adhered to.

“It is mandatory for the worshippers to install the Al Hosn application on their smartphones,” said the representative.

The Mahamevnawa Buddhist Monastery in Dubai is also planning to reopen but had not confirmed a date yet.

The monastery typically had 1,500 visitors each Friday in Jumeirah.

However, like other places of worship it has remained closed during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Rubesh Pillai, who works as a volunteer at the temple, said a sanitising tunnel had been installed at the entrance to help prevent the spread of coronavirus.

He warned there were still hurdles to overcome before they could reopen.

“It’s going to be a challenge for us to open as it’s a small space,” he said.

“Social distancing means we are greatly reduced in how many we can allow in.

“One of the things we are looking at is introducing an online timetable informing people what time they can visit us.”

He said he expects the number of visitors on Fridays to be no more than 50 people, because of the restrictions.

“Even introducing an online timetable is going to have challenges for us,” he said.

“A lot of people who would come here can’t afford smartphones so it will be difficult to communicate with them that way.

“We are looking at moving to a bigger location but that is still some way off yet.”

Mosques open across the UAE on July 1