Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 1 December 2020

CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus: Children and elderly allowed to attend services as non-Muslim places of worship reopen in Abu Dhabi

Capacity is limited to 30 per cent and worshippers are required to follow all other Covid-19 precautions

All non-Muslim places of worship in Abu Dhabi will be allowed to reopen from Monday with strict safety measures in place to curb the spread of Covid-19.

Capacity at churches must be limited to 30 per cent, and all activities and events, aside from main prayers, are prohibited for now.

Services must be limited to maximum one hour, and worshippers must remain two metres apart from one another.

Children and older people who do not suffer from chronic conditions are now allowed to attend, in a change from previous guidelines, which initially prevented them from entering.

"In response to the places of worship requests and in respect of their religion, it was also decided to allow children to enter the places of worship to practice their religious rituals in a manner that does not conflict with the procedures and laws,” said Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri, executive director of Community Engagement and Sport in the Department of Community Development.

“Elderly worshipers who do not suffer from any chronic diseases are also allowed to enter according to the procedures that have been set."

He said places of worship had been issued with a manual setting out measures to guide the gradual return of churchgoers.

It includes an explanatory guide about procedures that must be followed, including organised entry and exit points according to the permitted capacity.

Catholic and Anglican churches have removed prayer books in the main worship area and restricted worshippers to two people per pew.

About 10 to 80 people are seated in clearly marked spaces.

At St Joseph’s Catholic and St Andrew’s Anglican churches in Abu Dhabi, worshippers must first register online to reserve a spot.

To do so, they must enter Emirates ID details online and are encouraged to download the government's Al Hosn tracing app.

They can attend mass once they receive an email confirming their booking.

Two to five singers sing during mass in some gatherings, while at others recorded music has replaced the choir.

Workers in protective overalls and face shields spray sanitising mist across the church between services.

Mosques, temples and churches were closed on March 16 across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Several places of worship reopened in early July but churches reopened later as they awaited clarity about receiving the communion.

Last week, authorities announced the gradual reopening of mosques and other places of worship in industrial areas and labour sites across the Emirates, with capacity again limited to 30 per cent.

Rev Andy Thompson, senior chaplain at St Andrew’s Church in Abu Dhabi, told The National safety is continually monitored with parishioners asked to also wear gloves.

“We are happy and excited to be back together with our church family. We have missed worshipping as a community.”

Updated: August 31, 2020 11:57 AM

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