The department of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) has announced that religious gatherings will be allowed to resume under level 3 lockdown restrictions, provided necessary health and safety measures are met.
“After wide consultations with the religious sector, government is now in a position to categorise religious counselling as an essential service.
“This will enable the millions who have been affected by the virus to receive this much needed service, since the majority cannot afford professional attention of this nature,” Cogta minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma said.
As of Monday June 1, religious gatherings such as church services were permitted so long as they included no more than 50 congregants.
However, the department encouraged religious organisations to stick to virtual services wherever possible to minimise the risk of infection.
“All religious leaders or persons in charge must develop plans and protocols on how they will manage the re-opening,” Zuma said.
“They should ensure health, hygiene and social distancing are observed and ensure that every person entering a place of worship wears a face mask.”
She said wearing masks during services would be compulsory, and any religious ritual that required personal contact would be prohibited.
“Every place of worship has to ensure that there are sufficient quantities of hand sanitisers available which all attendees are required to use.
“Places of worship are required to keep a register which must be retained for a period of six months detailing names, contact details, residential addresses and contact persons,” Zuma said.
All places of worship will be required to screen attendees for Covid-19 symptoms, and will be prohibited from allowing anyone with signs of infection from entering.