Pastors happy with new relaxed COVID-19 measures

PASTORS yesterday expressed pleasure with the number of worshippers that will now be allowed in churches, following the relaxation of COVID-19 measures announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness in Parliament.

Holness told the House that the limit of 50 people in the sanctuary will be adjusted to allow up to 70 per cent capacity from June 24 to August 10. He explained that the capacity is calculated based on the ratio of one person per 40 square feet of the designated worship area. In addition, he said all existing protocols including temperature checks, sanitisation and mask wearing must continue.

As of July 1 to August 11, the prime minister said, the curfew will begin 11:00 pm until 5:00 am from Mondays to Saturdays and 6:00 pm until 5:00 am on Sundays.

Jamaica Council of Churches President Rev Newton Dixon told the Jamaica Observer that its churches were eager for the relaxation of the curfew hours.

“We have found out that in terms of compliance with the protocols we have been doing well in preventing the spread. Pastors, especially those in the ministries of care, had to hurry to and from church which prevented the provision of care, which is a major part of what we do,” he said.

“We are really looking forward to doing more with the extended time, in making a significant contribute to the health and wellness of the nation from the mental health, spiritual, and social standpoint,” Rev Dixon added.

Senior pastor of Hope Gospel Assembly Rev Dr Peter Garth, who was also pleased with the measures, said, “What has been announced is something that the church is happy about. We were hoping that we would go back to the original measures.”

According to Garth, with the new curfew hours for Sundays, some churches will be able to assist the needy, which had been a challenge before.

“We have some churches who were having extreme difficulties and there are some churches who would try to reach out to the poor in the afternoons and those who would need something to eat. We are happy for this opening and pray that we do not have a [novel coronavirus] third wave, because some of the announcements made by the prime minister are pretty risky, but I can well appreciate the various industries that have suffered severely,” he said.

Pastor Eugennie Powell of Padmore Church of God of Prophecy in St Andrew pointed out that, while the prime minister’s move was good, churches will have to take extra precaution in exercising COVID-19 protocols.

“At least gradually, we are getting to a sense of normalcy. But, we definitely have to practise more sanitising, more social distancing and mask wearing. Although we have the protocols in place, I have to get more ushers out now to ensure they are being followed,” she said.

Pastor Marlett Pottinger of Fellowship Tabernacle added, “We are very grateful. This is good news and we appreciate the improvement. Now we will have our regular numbers in terms of the [70] per cent capacity and at the same time have the live streaming, which does not have to be held twice.”

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