More thought needed on religious gatherings

Religious institutions will be able to open their doors from June 1
Religious institutions will be able to open their doors from June 1

The announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this week allowing places of worship to reopen their doors on June 1 has drawn a mixed reaction.

And understandably so.

After all, church gatherings were the epicentre of Covid-19 in the Eastern Cape and Free State when the virus first started spreading around SA.

Throw into the mix the fact that Nelson Mandela Bay has also been identified as one of the Covid-19 hotspots around the country, and the decision for religious leaders in the Bay becomes that much more crucial.

But for SS Aulayam Hindu temple guru Kesu Padayachy, it is quite simple.

While welcoming the announcement, he will continue live-streaming services until he feels it is safe for the congregation to go back to the temple.

“We’re finding that the virus spreads when people congregate together. The danger when there is a group of people is high, regardless of the protection you take. We’re choosing the side of caution,” he said.

So how then can it be that 50 people are allowed to gather in one space when, for example, beauty therapists are not allowed to operate at all?

After all, the nature of the beauty therapy industry demands the strictest adherence to health and safety procedures. It is nothing new to the industry and has always been standard operating procedure in most reputable salons.

That, and the fact that it is often a personal, one-on-one experience, makes going to a beauty parlour a safer bet than worshipping with 49 others in the same building at this point.

Will the same safety precautions be adhered to in a more public space with more individuals?

The short answer is, we just cannot say with certainty that it will.

So while we understand the role that religious institutions play and that, for some, this might be the only refuge in trying times, perhaps more thought needs to go into how this will happen.


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