Dubai: Churches and the gurudwara in Jebel Ali, Dubai, are going all out to prepare theselves to resume operations with necessary precautions, following news that places of worship could reopen from Wednesday.
With this news, places of worship have set into motion massive disinfection drives and other measures to ensure a safe environment.
Speaking to Gulf News on Thursday, Fr Ninan Philip Panackamattam, vicar of St. Thomas Orthodox Cathedral in Oud Metha, said: “We commend the efforts of the Community Deevelopment Authority (CDA) and Dubai Health Authority (DHA) to outline a clear plan of action to avoid any mishaps when we reopen.
“We have taken special care to abide by the guidelines notified by the CDA, which includes a complete fumigation and disinfection drive inside and within the church premises; the creation of a blueprint to define the entry and exit plans of the worshippers; introduction of five services in addition to the Friday morning mass; as well as the setting up of a thermal scanner and temperature check system at the entry points,” Fr Ninan enumerated.
He said: “We have also set up an online registration system to divide the members of the parish into different groups for attending worship, and we have attached stickers at two-meter distance for the public to occupy.”
Fr Ninan said there is a plan to avoid any acts of physical contact during prayer times.
St Mary’s Catholic Church has also drafted a detailed health and safety plan, in consonance with the CDA guidelines, that has been submitted to the authority for approval. Rev. Harrison Chinnakumar, chaplain of Holy Trinity Church in Oud Metha, said they will also do a thorough cleaning of the church compound before re-opening.
Waiting for green light
Surender Singh Kandhari, chairman of Guru Nanak Darbar Gurudwara in Jebel Ali, told Gulf News, an inspection was conducted at the temple of Wednesday and CDA inspectors.
“The inspectors said we did a fantastic job in setting up, among others, a sanitising tunnel and thermal scanners,” said Kandhari, adding: “Safety reminders have been posted at every wall and on the floor of the temple while hand sanitisers were installed at strategic areas.
People are required to wear face masks at all times. They will come, pray and leave. Eating inside and sitting inside the prayer hall will not be allowed and the place will be regularly fumigated.
“We are taking full precautions and we are just waiting for the green light from the CDA to re-open soon,” Kandhari noted.
The safety guidelines
According to bulletins posted in some churches, a series of guidelines have to be adhered to. They include operating at a maximum of 50 per cent of their usual capacity prior to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The places of worship will open only during the defined prayer timings as agreed with the authority.
There should be two separate lines for the entry and exit of people and worshippers should practise physical distancing at all times and avoid overcrowding.
Churches and temples should also be properly equipped to measure the temperature of worshippers prior to entering the premises.
Anyone with a temperature of 37.5 degrees Celsius shall not be permitted to enter the premises.
The prayer should start exactly at the agreed time and the place of worship should be closed immediately after the prayer.
No masks or gloves are to be distributed at the entrance and it is not allowed for any kind of food donations or distribution within or around the premises of places of worship.
Doors and windows should remain open front the start until the end of prayers.
Premises should be cleaned continuously and that there are bins with cover for hygienic disposal of used masks and other waste. All washrooms and ablution areas, however, are to be closed.
Worshippers have to observe physical distancing by being two-meter apart between one another.
Worshippers are required to wear masks and gloves at all time and they have to bring their own prayer books and other prayer-related paraphernalia.
It is also not allowed to shake hands.
It is not allowed to gather before or after prayers.
Moreover, worshippers have to leave the place of worship immediately after the prayer.
Worshippers who have been in contact with any positive COVID-19 patient should not enter the place of worship. Those with chronic diseases and prone to infections should also not enter the place of worship, same as children under 12 years old and elderly over 60 years old.