Many people, especially Christians, are of the staunch view that it is now time for the President, Nana Addo to lift the ban on public gathering.
In a report by the Daily Guide, the Heads of Christian Ecumenical Bodies in Ghana have issued guidelines to curb the spread of the deadly Coronavirus as the church prepares to reopen after the ban.
In the report, the Christian Council, the National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference all agreed to these guidelines with the hope that the President will lift the ban this weekend.
PREPARATION TOWARDS REOPENING OF CHURCHES IN GHANA: GUIDELINES TO MITIGATE POTENTIAL SPREAD OF COVID-19
Heads of the Christian Ecumenical Bodies in Ghana
Rev. Dr Cyril Fayose, CCG Rev. Emmanuel Barrigah, GPCC
Bishop Titi Offei, NACCC Rev. Fr. Lazarus Anondee, GCBC
May 07, 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic exacts a global toll on lives and livelihoods, Ghana’s case count keeps increasing steadily since the first index case was reported on March 12, 2020, and government’s response towards slowing and stopping the transmission, the government issued several preventive protocols (social distancing, hand and respiratory hygiene practices), partial lockdown in epicentres, and imposed several restrictions on public gatherings including temporary suspension of communal Church activities. Impliedly, the suspension of religious gathering constitutes a form of lockdown, owing to the Church’s inability to congregate for communal worship. And following the President’s meeting with heads of churches and ecumenical councils on April ??, 2020 at the Jubilee House where His Excellency the President charged the Christian leaders to develop modalities and guidelines to mitigate the spread of the virus should the ban on public gathering be lifted, the Christian leaders developed these intervention strategies.
In assessing Church’s readiness and capacity to comply with COVID-19 pandemic safety protocols, it is important to note that addressing CV-19 “requires a whole-of-government and whole-of-society response.” The Church being a major stakeholder is indispensable in the State’s overall COVID-19 containment and mitigation strategies. Given that 71% of Ghanaians identify as Christians, the Church, with its wide social network, access to communities, captive audience, unquestioned authority, and influential actors of public support for government measures is best placed to help in numerous ways with educating, counseling and sustaining the populace.
GUIDELINES TO MITIGATE POTENTIAL SPREAD OF COVID-19
As the Church prepares to come back for communal worship, the tables below show the potential risk areas and what to do to mitigate potential spread.
RISK AREAS SPECIFIC AREAS
Entrance points to churches
Utility areas in the church
Washroom door handles
Seating arrangements in the church
Close seating arrangement in the church that breaches social distancing regulations
Group sitting e.g. the choir
Nature of church building
Poorly ventilated churches – having few and small windows
Entirely glass windows that impede free flow of air
Nature of service
Handshakes during welcome sessions
Singing groups congregating at one side and singing
Group meetings – Sunday schools where teachers speak to small groups. Those in the front roll are at risk
Communion services where cups are handed to individuals
Communion service where many people drink from one cup
Communion services where packaged loaves are handed to individuals
Devices and items (Microphones used commonly by more than one person, faucets, telephones)
Money handled by more than one person through
giving offering and tithes
Vestries & Pastors’ offices
Door and seat handles
Poorly ventilated rooms
Common surfaces including Pastors’ tables
SPECIFIC RISK AREAS
INTERVENTIONS TO PUT IN PLACE
Church Entrances and Lobbies
Hand washing: Make available hand-washing materials for all to wash hands before entering the church or touching rails, door handles and pillars. A running tap or Veronica bucket should be put at all entrances for every church member to wash hands before entering the church. Handsfree soap dispenser must be fitted to avoid cross contamination.
Sanitization: Make hand-sanitizer (preferably a dispenser) available at near church entrances, outside washrooms, pastors’ offices, vestries and lobbies for members to sanitize their hands.
Enforce hand washing and sanitization: have one person (usher) dedicated to the entrance to enforce the above, making sure that every church member at least, washes the hands for 20 seconds under running water and also sanitizes the hands after washing. Enforcement is more important than instituting the measures in order to achieve sustained compliance. In addition, churches should put up signs reminding people to wash hands, cough/sneeze into their elbows and remind people from the pulpit/stag
Clean utility areas, surfaces and items touched by different people routinely. Preferably clean surfaces every 1-2 hours depending on utilization. Door handles, WC handles, faucets, microphones. Seat arms/handles should be disinfected before and after service for the next session.
Seating in churches
Observe social distancing through seating arrangements: seating should be rearranged to allow social distancing rules. Contiguous seats should be 2 arms-length reach (2m). So should be the distance before and after one seat to ensure that cough, sneeze and talking from one church member does not predispose the neighbours to the virus particularly from asymptomatic carriers.
Provide separate seating areas for the aged and families.
Organize churches services in sessions: because of the need for social distancing as described above, there will invariably be the need to organize churches in more than one session with at least one hour in between services.
Wear facemasks: All citizens/church members including pastors, are to wear facemasks to enter churches. It is particularly important for those who will engage by talking e.g. pastors, Sunday school teachers etc. The mask will prevent droplet infections from getting to the others. For all others, it will also prevent them getting droplets from others in the church. Masks are to be kept on until one comes back home. This will reduce the risk of spread from asymptomatic carriers of the virus.
Nature of building
All windows should be opened fully during church services to allow good ventilation. There should be no use of air conditioners. This will diffuse and reduce the concentration of the virus (should there be anyone infected) in the room.
Nature of service
All handshakes are to be avoided in churches during this period of COVID-19. This leads to cross-contamination and spread of the virus.
All who speak in churches must wear N95 facemask during service. This will reduce the risk of spreading the virus to others.
Singers/Choristers: observe social distancing and also avoid second row of singers. As much as possible prerecorded music may be used.
Communion Service: Offer individual cups for communion. Reduce hand-to-hand transmission by
providing individual bread and cup servings. Hand hygiene and food safety precautions must strictly be observed by those who prepare these communions.
Giving / collection of offering and tithes: It is advisable not to pass offering bowls and baskets around. Items that are frequently handled can be sources of contaminants for the COVID-19 virus. The virus can be retained on the offering/tithe bowl for hours and can be passed on to others. The best option will be for a stationary bowl with a wide opening to be put in front or entry point where people do not need to handle the bowl before putting in their offering and tithes. Where practicable, churches should advice their members to use mobile money for offerings and tithes as this means of giving reduces the risk of transmission
Education on Covid-19
Communicate with and educate church members, and persons in the communities that the church is located
Select members in the church should be trained and be made responsible for COVID-19 education and coordination of resources to help the church.
The church should mobilize resources to help individuals in need including church health facilities.
- Most Rev Dr Paul Boafo (Chairman, Christian Council of Ghana)
- Rev Prof Yaw Frimpong Manso (President, Ghana Pentecostal and Charismatic Council)
- Most Rev Phillip Naameh (President, Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference)
- Archbishop Nicholas Duncan Williams (President, National Association of Charismatic and Christian Churches)