KUCHING — The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) revealed churches are making preparations to adapt to the new norm of 33 per cent capacity when they reopen starting June 20.
Its chairman Archbishop Simon Poh who is also Archbishop of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Kuching appealed to all members to be understanding and patient these next few weeks as the respective churches reopen after three months of closure following the enforcement of restricted movement orders to curb the spread of Covid-19.
“I know that with reduced capacity, the majority (66 to 75 per cent) will not be able to enter the churches with limited seating. We will seek new ways to enable everyone to worship and receive Holy Communion on Sundays,” Poh revealed in a press statement yesterday.
Poh disclosed ACS and churches in Sarawak welcomed the announcement by the State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) that church services could resume from June 20.
“Churches are now adapting and adhering to the new norm of social distancing of one metre between persons. This will definitely reduce the church building capacity to a quarter or one-third size,” Poh pointed out.
For the Catholic Church, he revealed, priests and various teams are now mapping out seating plans, movement flow in the church, setting up points for temperature screening, recording contact details for contact tracing, as well as forming new teams for sanitising toilets and church pews between Mass services.
“Keeping in view our aim to ensure the safety of church goers, only Catholic churches that are ready with the new SOP (standard operating procedure) in place are allowed to open.
“We will give time for the setting up and training of church teams. During the initial phase, the respective churches will open gradually for limited numbers of Catholics coming to church at each Mass. We will gradually increase as the priests, church teams and members become used to the new SOP.
“I believe that the smaller congregation helps to mitigate any unnecessary crowding while we familiarise ourselves with the new SOP,” Poh added.
Live-streamed Masses on Sundays from St Joseph’s Cathedral in Kuching will continue to be made available.
Poh highlighted the ultimate aim for the strict SOP is to prevent any further Covid-19 outbreaks, especially any second wave of infections. As such, social distancing and health precautions have continued to be strictly maintained and adhered to in the reopening of churches.
“Today (June 15) with this wonderful announcement that churches can be reopen, let us also not become complacent. Without social distancing and taking health precautions, we may face a second wave. And all the sacrifices that we had made over the last three months would have been in vain.
“Working together in a concerted effort with SDMC, Unifor (Unit for Other Religions) and all spiritual leaders of the various faiths in Sarawak, we are confident that together, we can contain and eradicate Covid-19 in Sarawak,” Poh added.