Churches in Rwanda have officially reopened but with a low turn up of the faithful after four months period of lockdown.
Steven MUGISHA a christian at Paroisse Cyahinda Diocese in Butare told Parrotsug that there is still the fear of acquiring the virus among the faithful despite the decision by gov’t to restrict number of the congregants.
Schools and worship centres were closed down in March after Ministry of Health in Rwanda confirmed the first coronavirus case in the country. The closure was a mean of containing the spread of the infectious COVID-19 disease which the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global pandemic.
Its understood that on Wednesday this week, Rwandan government ordered for the reopening of places of worship under strict rules.
As of 18 July, 2020, Rwanda had 1,539 COVID-19 confirmed cases, 819 recoveries and 5 deaths.
Officials from the Local government and Rwandan Governance Board said that each Church would be reopened after an inspection to ascertain they meet the set restrictions.
Gov’t further directed that every house of prayer must have hand sanitizers, infrared thermometers and measures to uphold the use of face masks. The number of congregants is also very restricted to avoid overcrowding.
Gov’t Guidelines to reopen places of worship in Rwanda.
1. Reopening of a place of worship will be approved by the District after a thorough inspection on safety measures by a responsible team from the sector administration. Meanwhile, places of worship located in areas under lockdown are not allowed to reopen.
2. Congregants are only allowed to give offerings using digital payments such as Mobile Money, Money transfer and Bank transfer to avoid the spread of coronavirus. Each place of worship should prepare a special place for congregants who bring non-monetary offerings.
3. The Holy Communion is allowed, but must be done in observance with safety guidelines against the coronavirus pandemic. Both priests and congregants should therefore wash their hands before attending the Holy Communion service and should avoid exchanging or sharing in the same container during the service. Self-service should be applied where possible.
4. Volunteers helping in the enforcement of COVID-19 measures must be deployed at every place of worship whenever there is a function.
5. A specific but limited number of congregants must be identified publicly at every place of worship.
6. The programme of prayers (days and hours) must be communicated to the public and to the sector administration for proper inspection.
7. Touching, hugging and shaking hands are prohibited. Congregants must also keep one metre (1m) of distance between them before and after prayers. Priests are not allowed to put their hands on congregants while praying for them.
8. Sharing church materials like microphone, Holy books is prohibited.
9. Children under 12 years of age are not allowed to gather at places of worship.
10. Places of worship are not allowed to open during curfew hours.
11. For a place of worship to reopen, an inspection team at the sector level does inspection and gives the report to the district for approval.
12. However, the same team does regular inspections at places of worship and has the authority to suspend it, in case of Covid-19 guidelines violation.