By Spy Uganda
Kampala: In his 17th Presidential address on COVID-19, President Museveni decided churches to remain closed as a way to curb the novel coronavirus. However he asked inter-religious council to have a joint meeting with the Ministry of Health officials to design guidelines to be followed when churches are opened.
It is against this background that today the inter-religious council issued proposed COVID-19 guidelines that will be implemented to prevent the transmission of the virus if worship centres are opened.
The religious leaders have identified two areas of concentration: high and low-risk regions. The border districts are at high risk and concentrated urban cities, inland districts and rural communities are at low risk.
Leaders revealed that the proposal for the phased opening of places of worship will start with low-risk regions and locations and progress to other areas of the nation. Adding “the low-risk opening will act as a demonstration model and places of worship will form learning centers to enable other phases of opening.”
Among the standard operating procedures (SOPs) proposed by the inter-religious council include every place of worship identifying health professionals within their congregations or train any willing individuals in their respective congregations to form standby health teams, which shall receive specialized training, in order to ensure the SOPs are implemented.
“Every place of worship will be required to Identify and report any suspected cases of COVID-19 and ensure places of worship are sprayed with medicated sanitization liquids before and after services or gatherings” Inter-religious council statement partly reads.
Religious leaders adds that everyone who accesses the place of worship shall be sanitized, either using approved sanitizers or soap and water and only persons wearing face masks will be allowed to enter worship centres but also take temperatures using a non-contact thermometer such as a gun-thermometer and ensure that any person with abnormal temperatures (400 C and above), will be advised to seek medical attention immediately and not allowed to enter.
“Religious institutions should keep record of all the congregants who attend their meetings for easy contact tracing and should keep a register of the worshipers in attendance containing the names, phone numbers and area of residence” statement adds.
Council adds that each place of worship should possess the contacts of the nearest ambulance services for transport in case of any medical emergency and comprise a protocol team comprised of ushers and security personnel to support the health teams with compliance of SOPs.
The protocol team shall submit reports to the Lead celebrants in relation to how the congregants have complied with the directives and SOPs in place at the time and shall keep monitoring the congregants to ensure their masks are on through the service.
“In collaboration with the ministry of health, religious leaders and their congregations will also be enabled to appropriate resources needed in the re-opening of their places of worship. This strategy will include redesigning places of worship to conform to SOPs stipulated guidelines by the Ministry of Health to function in the post-COVID-19 lockdown” statement adds.
Trained leaders will form extension resources of district task forces at the places of worship within the local communities to ensure compliance with SOPs. Besides health and behavioral management, prayers sessions will motivate confidence and resilience among the community members to aggressively respond to the challenges of COVID-19 within their congregations.