South African President,Cyril Ramaphosa, announced on the evening of the 26th of May 2020 that all religious places of worship will be permitted to open under strict safety precautions.
All religious places of worship may reopen when the country enters level 3 of lockdown from the 1st of June 2020.The President stressed the need for the implementation of safety precautions such as; only 50 people will be permitted in a religious place of worship. The counter arguments for the “50 people only” regulation from Father Russell Pollitt who is the director of the Jesuit Institute of South Africa are as follows:
1)who would decide which 50 people can be permitted to worship,is it the religious leader?
2)what if the leader constantly chooses his favourites?
A suggestion from Bishop Malusi Mpumlwana, Secretary General of SA Council of Churches (SACC) is that religious leaders should break up the congregation and work by an attendance system categorized by alphabetical surnames and age.
The biggest concern amongst South African Citizens is the fact that Covid-19 infections peaked from places of worship in other countries with high infection rates. Another concerning issue to the general public, is the fact that places of worship also attract elderly people and they are among those who are most vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus.
Father Pollitt asked the following worrisome questions; what would happen with the places of worship that are not well funded?(those that cannot afford masks and sanitization regimes).
If there are more than 50 people at a place of worship will the police barge in?he later concluded by saying: “it seems to me that this is not a very wise decision.” Most people are concerned that the opening of places of worship while COVID-19 infections are still rising in the country might not be the best decision.
Others argue that places of worship do not pay tax and that they will not contribute to the agenda of saving the economy in level 3. They suggest that people should continue to praise and worship in their homes.
As a result of the President’s announcement,a popular Johannesburg nightclub called “Taboo” which has been closed since 26 of March when lockdown commenced posted a sarcastic image on their twitter page calling themselves “Taboo ministries.”
The overall talk amongst citizens now, is that the President might as well lift the lockdown if places of worship are allowed to open even though they are seen as high risk because they prompt the gathering of people which does not add value to the economy.