Houses of worship can now open with conditions

PUTRAJAYA: Non-Muslim houses of worship can now open their doors for religious activities except those involving large gatherings, processions and feasts.

According to the list of standard operating procedures (SOP) on the operation of houses of worship, these places can only take in one-third of their normal capacity of worshippers.

However, the go-ahead is not applicable to those located in Covid-19 red zones.

Senior Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, who announced this, said the government has allowed 5,230 non-Muslim houses of worship to operate.

“These places are expected to ensure that the SOP is adhered to by the worshippers, such as social distancing, number of congregations at one time and taking their temperature before joining in for prayers, ” he said in his daily briefing yesterday.

He said places of worship can operate according to their schedule before the movement control order was imposed.

“For instance, if a church holds its mass on weekends, they can now do so again with one-third of the congregation allowed to maintain social distancing, ” he said yesterday.

Time to congregate safely: Parishioners observing mass at church after it was reopened. — SARBAN SINGH/The StarTime to congregate safely: Parishioners observing mass at church after it was reopened. — SARBAN SINGH/The Star

Ismail Sabri said while this is a general approval given by the Federal Government, it would be up to the respective state governments to decide on when the places of worship can start opening their doors.

According to the SOP list, these places will also have to abide by the regulations stipulated by the respective state governments.

“Activities in the negative list, such as large gatherings, processions and feasts are not allowed, ” it said.

The SOP also calls for committee members as well as religious leaders and members of the

congregation to adopt to the new normal and self-discipline, including using face masks and regular washing of hands and the use of hand sanitisers while they are at the houses of worship.

Activities at places of worship for non-Muslims are also subject to Act 342, regulations under the National Security Council, state and local authorities.

Ismail Sabri also announced that all mosques and surau in the Federal Territories, except for those located in the red zones, can resume operation.

He said the standard operating procedure remain the same, with only one-third of the congregation allowed to pray.

“The respective mosque and surau committee must check the temperature of the congregation before allowing them to enter.

“This approval is for mosques and surau which are in the Federal Territories. For other states, this will be decided by the respective state religious authorities, ” he added.

Last week, it was announced that mosques and surau in green zones in the Federal Territories will reopen for Friday prayers and other congregational prayers starting June 12.

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