Uganda: Churches, Mosques List Standards for Reopening

The Inter-Religious Council of Uganda (IRCU) has said they have developed Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for their members to enable them prevent coronavirus spread when they finally reopen places of worship.

The draft guidelines, according to Mr Joshua Kitakule, the IRCU secretary general, were submitted to the Ministry of Health and the national taskforce on Covid-19 for guidance and seek to divide their congregation to limit numbers of those, who come for prayers at any given time.

In their proposals, the members will be expected to pray in phases to observe the two-metre social distance among the congregation, ensure handwashing, sanitising at every entrance, register all attendants and take temperature before accessing the premises of worship.

Mr Kitakule said this would make it easy to conduct services and monitor members for any eventuality.

He added the cells would be timetabled so that when one group worships this week, the other will wait for the next week.

"We are asking how many people can sit in this mosque or church. We don't need many numbers because they have to be registered and we need to follow them up. One of the proposals we are making is that is it possible for that church to be organised in cells so that many people don't come for worship at once," Mr Kitakule noted.

There was also a proposal to book a service although they later realised that it can only be applicable in urban centres because of available facilities such as internet.

Currently, the council has customised a training manual, which they are using to sensitise the leadership in the different faiths depending on their needs and training will be concluded in two weeks' time.

"We already have the SOPs draft that we have submitted to government to look at and guide. We have done mapping in our churches and mosques. Once training is done, we are hopeful government should be able to reopen places of worship. We have to go slow; consciously. We don't want to reopen and close immediately after," Mr Kitakule told Daily Monitor on Monday.

They are also encouraging their members to continue exploring online, television and radio platforms to reach to their congregation because Covid-19 trends show that the pandemic, which was first registered in the country in March, is something not about to end.

Mr Kitakule said their proposals will first be tried in urban centres, where exposure to risks of contracting the virus are high before they are introduced in other parts of the country to easily monitor their performance.

He said while they expected government to extend some resources to support their training, this has not been possible which has affected some of their activities.

Only adults and children aged 12 and above will be allowed to pray when they begin the phased reopening. In addition, people with different ailments are discouraged from accessing places of worship until it's safe.

All people at church will be expected to wear masks at all time.

He added: "Every member organisation are doing training within their structures. The needs of Muslims are not the needs of Catholics. Needs of Orthodox may not be needs of balokole. We did a sample manual that is generic that different members are able to customise for their different needs."

Background

President Museveni last month maintained all religious institutions together with education institutions, mobile markets and bars under lockdown because government had not figured out how the institutions would keep away its masses from contracting the virus.

Mr Museveni then asked the IRCU to work with Ministry of Health on measures that will ensure people are safe when they go to pray.

pahimbisibwe@ug.nationmedia.com

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