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Temples, churches reopen in Oman with COVID-19 safety measures in place

Oman Saturday 26/December/2020 19:39 PM
By: Times News Service
Temples, churches reopen in Oman with COVID-19 safety measures in place
A temple in Muscat. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Muscat: Temples and churches in Oman have reopened with all measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in place.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Religious Affairs (MARA) had allowed the reopening of temples and churches in the country, after they had been temporarily shut during the pandemic, with an official listing the precautions required for them to operate.

“The measures required for them are the same as the ones taken for the reopening of mosques,” said the MARA official.

“These include physical spacing, sterilising hands, wearing masks during their time spent in the church or temple, avoiding shaking each other’s hands, avoiding touching surfaces and objects as much as possible and preventing overcrowding while entering or leaving the premises, and a commitment to stay at home if a person exhibits any relevant symptoms.”

“The decision to allow places of worship to reopen was taken on 13 December,” added the MARA official. “This is providing they follow all the precautionary measures required.”

A representative of a church in Muscat did confirm what the ministry had said.
“Only some religious facilities have resumed so far,” said Father Shijo Scaria, the vicar of St Mary’s Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church in Muscat, which is located in a complex in Ruwi that has a number of other churches.“A number of churches in our campus have indeed reopened.”

In keeping with MARA guidelines, instructions for visitors worshipping at two temples in Muscat were also issued, ahead of their reopening.

“Visitors entering the temples will not be allowed to sit or meet/talk with other visitors, temple priests, and staff, on the premises,” said temple management in their advisory.
“They should pray and move out of the temple as early as possible. Visitors need to undergo temperature checks during entry. If temperatures are above 37.2 degrees Celsius, they will not be permitted to enter. “Wearing masks or face shields is mandatory, and a physical/social distance of 1.5 metres must be maintained at all times,” they added.

“Do not share your personal protective equipment, and no social gatherings are allowed in and around both the temples.”

Photography and videography on the premises are currently prohibited, and washrooms and toilets will remain closed for the time being.

Those who are sick or present symptoms of COVID-19, or have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for the disease, must not visit the temple, as well as those who suffer from chronic diseases, and the elderly.

Some places of worship, while they were closed, continued to hold prayer meetings virtually. Among them was the Protestant Church in Oman.

“We’re using technology to worship, to grow through discipleship programmes, to pray, to connect, and to care for each other,” said the church in an announcement.