Dear People of God
Attached please find for careful study and implementation an important report and recommendations from the Provincial COVID Advisory Team on the second wave of the coronavirus now being experienced in many parts of our Province.
Key implications of the report:
- Most urgent, in South Africa, all faith-based institutions have to be closed by 9pm in the evenings, whether events are held indoors or outdoors. This means ensuring all Christmas Eve services are finished by 9pm on Thursday.
- The Advisory Team recommends that services be restricted to 80 worshippers, where that number can be accommodated while observing social distancing of 1,5 metres. Where capacity is smaller, places of worship should not be more than 50% full.
- In South Africa, the latest regulations in any event limit attendance of a funeral to 100, observing 1,5m social distancing, or 50% of capacity where 100 cannot be accommodated. Night vigils and after-funeral gatherings, such as “after-tears” events, are prohibited.
- In some churches, mask-wearing, proper sanitising and the prohibition on handshakes and singing without masks is not being observed.
- Where possible, we should return to on-line services and Diocesan bishops should seriously consider requests from parishes who wish to close for Christmas due to local conditions where such requests are properly motivated.
- Older people are often those who are most lonely in lockdown, but those over 60 and have co-morbidities are still the most vulnerable and ought to avoid returning to services.
- A vaccine is our best and only defence against the virus. We need to participate in advocacy efforts to see that access to the vaccine happens on a just and equitable basis. We need to support education initiatives around the vaccine and call for vaccination as a common good.
- We need to focus anew on addressing food insecurity and other social needs and also strengthen our response to this is a more intentional way. As a mark of solidarity and hospitality to honour the birth of the Christ child in a manger, we should consider donating food, school shoes or a stationery pack instead of buying presents.
- Since the Advisory Team met, it has become evident that new infections are highest in the 15-19 age group, so where possible the number of servers should also be reduced for the time being.
Please read the accompanying report carefully. I am sure you will all join me in thanking the Advisory Team for their extensive and detailed work.
†† Thabo Cape Town