As SLAJ Corona Fet Na We All Fet… United in Faith, United in Action

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By Amin Kef Sesay

In a statement delivered by President Julius Maada Bio and broadcast live for the attention of members of the public on the 9th July 2020, His Excellency President Maada Bio announced that religious services must resume beginning July 13, 2020 which was welcomed by many Sierra Leoneans across the country.

It cannot be over emphasized that with the opening of places of worship, religious leaders and worshipers have roles to play in the fight against COVID-19 in the country as many efforts are being made to prevent the corona virus from spreading and it is expected that those efforts will become successful if only we put our trust in God as a nation. In this regard it is important for individuals to be united in Faith and in Action in order to combat COVID-19 in the country.

Worshipers are expected to be front-runners in keeping themselves, their churches, families and communities safe. Worshippers must therefore work with their religious leaders to look after the health and well-being of other worshipers

In the case of Religious Leaders they must ensure that health measures are fully implemented. This could be factored in their sermons. Besides, they must lead by example such as the wearing of cloth masks and ensure worshipers wear theirs, identify sick people, isolate them and inform the relevant health authorities.

It is also expected that all must honor their faiths by showing love and care to protect one another, wash hands with soap and water before entering places of worship, keeping a safe distance from others before, during, and after worship in order to stay healthy. Mosques and churches must be kept clean even when there are no coronavirus cases in communities, exhibit that we value life by doing everything we can to keep us all safe.

In as much as the National COVID-19 Response Centre (NACOVERC) has issued Operations Guidelines for resumption of Congregational Worship it is expected that they must be strictly adhered to by all religious leaders and worshippers. The following are some of the guidelines put in place for the resumption of Congregational Worship:

1. Churches and Mosques will have responsibility for following the stipulated guidelines and ensuring internal monitoring mechanisms:

A. Hygiene
1. Churches and Mosques should clean and disinfect their premises first before they are re-opened for worship. They should also be cleaned and disinfected in between services.

  1. Every worshipper must either use soap to wash their hands or apply sanitizers before being allowed to enter the Church/Mosque.
  2. Veronica buckets, soap and water or hand sanitizers should be provided at the entrance of every Church/Mosque
  3. The use of toilet facilities to be responsibly monitored.
    5. Mosques authorities should ensure that foot wares are well kept within the premises of the Mosques. In the light of this, worshippers are obliged to take great care and place their foot wares in plastic bags.

    B. Preventive measures

    1. The temperature of every worshipper must be taken before admission into the Church/Mosque and people with a high temperature (37.5C/99.5F) should not be allowed into the Church/Mosque but be advised to go and seek medical attention.

  4. Everyone in the place of worship must properly wear a facemask during worship. Masks should not be removed or lowered when speaking or singing.
    3. Sanitizers must be used in Mosques/Churches as appropriate.
  5. Numbers and Capacity
  6. Scaling down of the choir where necessary. Due to the high risk of spreading COVID-19, strict physical distancing of at least six feet must always be maintained by choristers.

    4. Offering bags/plates will be taken from row to row to avoid movement of people. The use of envelopes is advisable.

    5. Standing or individual microphones should be used at all times to avoid cross infection.

    F. Monitoring of compliance

  7. An Internal and Monitoring Committee should be constituted in every Mosque/Church to oversee compliance to the suggested guidelines.
  8. Medical awareness and health promotion should be done during Church services.
    And for the Muslims, in order to educate worshippers and wash out the denial syndrome, Imams are encouraged to utilize the period between azan (call to worship) and prayers to sensitize and educate worshippers about the COVID- 19 pandemic.

    3. All the measures outlined herein shall apply to all activities conducted in places of worship.

    4. Churches/Mosques that are found non-compliant with the above guidelines will be warned through the appropriate oversight structures; and subsequently shut down for repeat offenses.

    It is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, so sick people or any symptomatic person should not go to places of worship. Stay home and call 117 if you have fever, tiredness, and cough.

However, many of the symptoms can be treated and getting early care from a health worker can make the sickness less dangerous. There are many research studies going on now to find a vaccine to counteract the coronavirus and administer treatments to help those who have contracted the virus to get better fast.

Scientists and researchers are working hard and as fast as possible, but these things take time for us to be very sure that a vaccine or treatment is safe for people.

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