They are suggesting that the first phase of the reopening should be around the end of August for 21 days accommodating adult and youth congregants, from the age of 12. The first reopening should start with urban areas before spreading to the countryside, according to proposals that were presented to the National COVID-19 Task Force.
Religious institutions under the
Inter-Religious Council of Uganda have developed Standard Operating
Procedures-SOPs to guide the safe re-opening of places of worship.
Borrowing a leaf from neighbouring
Kenya and Rwanda which have already announced the gradual resumption of
congregational worship in churches, synagogues, and mosques, the religious
institutions suggest that reopening can be in a phased arrangement to ensure
They are suggesting that the first phase of the reopening should be around the end of August for 21 days
accommodating adult and youth congregants, from the age of 12. The first
reopening should start with urban areas before spreading to the countryside,
according to proposals that were presented to the National COVID-19 Task Force.
“These SOPs suggest health
precautions and protocol measures that places of worship should adopt in
reopening to celebrate, officiate, and run their activities without providing
opportunities for COVID-19 infections to grow and spread,” the document reads.
Joshua Kitakule, the IRCU Secretary-General says that they are looking at urban areas as low-risk under
the arrangement because they have better-organized places of worship, with
facilities and the ability to enforce desired procedures for controlling the
disease. He says that the low risk will act as a demonstration model to enable
other phases of opening.
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The religious leaders are
optimistic that after the initial 21 days, the rest of the country will be
ready to reopen fully, allowing all congregants on board, probably by the end
They further suggest that in the
event that the places of worship are reopened, every institution shall identify
health professionals within their congregations or train any willing
individuals in their respective congregations to form standby health teams that
shall be trained to implement and enforce the guidelines.
The institutions will be required
to enforce mandatory use of face masks, temperature scanning, and sanitization
at entrances of places of worship and maintain social distancing of two meters
from each other. For, the Muslims, during Jumu'ah or Duwa Prayers, the SOPs
suggest that congregants can be given disposable bags for the individual storage
of shoes and other valuables.
Meanwhile, vulnerable members of
the congregation, including the elderly, and those with underlying health
conditions are advised to stay home and watch the services online.
Collection of gifts, offertory,
tithing or any other giving should be limited to entrances while worshipers are
entering or exiting the Places of Worship, to limit contact or many people
touching on the same surfaces. In the same way, sharing written materials like
Bibles, Qurans, songbooks, programs, or other written literature will also be
In case of any case identified,
the worship centres will have to link up with the area COVID-19 task force and
make contact tracing easier, all congregants will be registered.
“Every place of worship should
keep a register of the worshipers in attendance in a given worship service. The
register should contain the names, phone contact, and area of residence of each
worshiper,” the Inter-Religious Council suggests before encouraging families or
those from the same locality to sit together for easy contact tracing.
In the same development, the
proposed standard operating procedures point out that places of worship will
not be allowed to be used for any form of political campaigns.
Kitakule notes they have tasked different
religious institutions to come up with customized procedures in unique areas
which the general manual couldn’t capture. He says that if the training on the SOPS
goes smoothly then there is no reason why places of worship shouldn’t open in
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However, the proposed SOPs are subject
of the decision from the Ministry of Health and the National COVID-19 task
The Archbishop of the Church of
Uganda the Most Rev. Dr Stephen Kazimba Mugalu notes that although the council
has submitted their proposals they are not coercing the government given the fact that the dynamics of the pandemic are now unclear, following a series of deaths in recent days.
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But Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng is
optimistic that the two sides will have an understanding in the near future.
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Religious leaders are of the view
that places of worship play a central role in providing spiritual,
psychological, and emotional healing and nourishment to people, especially
during such unprecedented times when everybody seems to be living in uncertainty.