As Namibia transitions into stage 3 with more relaxed Covid-19 regulations, churches could face the music for contravening strict coronavirus guidelines.
Over the years, Namibia has seen the proliferation of churches, of which some are accused of exploiting the desperation of the poor. Despite these unprecedented times of the Covid-19 pandemic, some churches continue to milk the desperate off their hard earned money under the pretext of healing and performing miracles.
In an effort to fight the pandemic, the Namibian government has also relaxed some regulations through a National Church Task Force Covid-19 to oversee the return of churches and other sectors under strict guidelines.
Set regulations are clear that churches are not allowed to congregate if the church entrance requirements, in terms of social distancing, stipulated number of congregants per session and if health protocols are not fulfilled. In an interview, the head of the National Church Task Force Covid-19, Pastor Dolly Nengushe said such mechanisms were formed under the auspicious of association of charismatic and Pentecostal churches of Namibia. Asked how they will monitor the many “bogus” churches around Namibia, she said they only represent members who are recognised by laws of Namibia.
“We will be able to trace and monitor compliance of different churches. We are not talking about fly by night churches. The law will take its course on these churches, it’s not in our jurisdiction. We don’t want to support churches not registered, as it might pose risk in terms of abuse of the Covid-19 regulations. People fall prey to abuse. I am not against the churches, but the churches affiliated to us are those registered by law,” Nengushe reacted.
President Hage Geingob, when he announced the new measures under stage 3 on Thursday, said he has been approached by churches on how they will be expected to resume under the state of emergency regulations. Geingob said with the increase of the public gathering limited to 50 people under stage 3, government looks forward to an increased presence of church leaders, clergy and members of congregations in helping to bring the message of hope as well as much needed relief to the afflicted.
“We remain committed to partnering with our churches and other faith-based organisations in defeating this unprecedented pandemic,” Geingob said last week.
The mandatory availability of soap and water or sanitisers and registration sheet recording for all attendants including temperature and contacts should be put in place. Others include infrared non-contact thermometer, permitting maximum 37.4 degrees Celsius for entrance as well as masks or face shields covering mouth and nose required for all religious congregants.
Disinfection of the church hall together with all equipment before and after the service is mandatory, while toilets should have sanitisers or soap with running taps.
Setting up chairs 1-2 metres apart for social distancing with visible signage, and placing of posters in the church hall and in the toilet to remind people not to shake hands and to hug each other at all the entrances is mandatory.
If a church has more than 50 members, they should conduct their services at set intervals.
Nengushe appealed to law enforcement officials to corporate with churches.
“Some people are traumatised, some have lost their jobs. We are fighting a common enemy and the church is there to offer psycho-social, healing and restoration of people. A lot happened during this lockdown such as broken marriages, and now that we have time to come together, we should reach out to those who are hopeless and take care of them,” noted the pastor.
Only a maximum of two hours is permitted for the whole service, meaning only two services are permitted per week, one-midweek (Wednesdays) at 18h00 and Sundays between 08h00-14h00.
Holy communions will be observed with all precautionary measures in place such as hand gloves and masks to those serving and Sunday school classes will not be allowed.
Funeral church services should be observed with the same health directive restrictions as in a normal church building.
Nengushe encouraged congregants to adhere to regulations, especially during weddings and funerals.
“We see the positive results of our prayers during these difficult times. We want to give the Lord the glory and praise. We also want to praise our government and the President for giving guidance in the combat against this virus.” – firstname.lastname@example.org