The reopening of places of worship from Monday June 1 has met with mixed reaction from the public.
The reopening is conditional – no more than 50 people will be allowed into a church, mosque, synagogue or temple.
In making the announcement on Sunday May 24, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for a national day of prayer on Sunday May 31.
The president said places of worship would have to be sanitised before and after services; physical distancing would apply; and all worshippers would have to wear masks. Religious leaders would be recognised as essential front-line workers.
“Places of worship may open, subject to strict regulations. Our faith communities must ensure that any religious rituals that carry even the slightest possibility of exposing worshippers to risk should be avoided, and that where they form an essential part of religious practice, that sanitisation is paramount,” he said.
The Muslim Judicial Council has however called on mosques to remain closed for another month. Its second deputy president, Sheikh Riad Fataar, said only those mosques who are able to afford to implement and rigorously enforce safety and sanitary procedures should open.
He said that mosques within hotspot areas should not open at all. He also said that mosques should not be deemed as infection-free areas.
“When considering the ability to enforce these procedures, masjid committees must consider the fact that within our hospitals and health facilities, despite the implementation of stringent precautionary measures, there have been over 1000 infections of health workers, including doctors and nurses.
“Those identified as particularly vulnerable to the virus due to age (60+) or underlying medical conditions should under no circumstances attend the masjid.”
Manenberg resident Ghamiet Salie said he was glad mosques were reopening but it wouldn’t be possible to let only 50 people in. It would also be costly to sanitise the mosque after each prayer and he asked where the money would come from for that.
“How will they decide who gets to go in and who can’t? And who will man the mosques to make sure rules are being adhered to? I look forward to being able to go to mosque again. They probably won’t allow the elderly in, but they are the ones who attend the mosque mostly and they are praying for the youth.”
Naeem Ismail, of Manenberg, said it was too soon to reopen the places of worship and he doubted people would stick to the rules.
“How will they decide who can enter and who can’t? This is going to cause so much trouble.”
Reverend Alan Goliath, of the All Saints Anglican Church in Lansdowne, said he was grateful the ban on religious gatherings had been lifted but many questions needed answers.
He said it would have been better to have reopened the places of worship at level 2 and to have used level 3 to prepare.
“I’m keen to see the details of the regulation to see what is required of us and how often we can meet. How are all of the things going to come together is what we need to understand. Now I have to make the decision based on whether our resources will be able to sustain sanitising so often. Our services will have to be adjusted. There are lots of questions that need to be answered.”