With Kenya set to resume public worship, an Interfaith Council established by the government is urging believers to remain cautious.
“Dear Kenyans, we must remain vigilant to the dangers this pandemic still poses even as the restrictions are lifted,” the Council said in a statement.
Public worship had been suspended in five counties due to a recent spike in the number of reported cases. Four Catholic dioceses were affected by the decision. With numbers going down, Kenyan President Uhura Kenyatta announced that the government would relax restrictions, beginning May 1.
Health and safety measures remain in place for religious ceremonies. The latest guidelines from the Council call for strict social distancing of 1.5 meters (approx. 5 feet), attendance to be limited to one third capacity for churches and other worship spaces, and services limited to under two hours. Services should be conducted in open spaces with room for circulation. Worshippers are expected to “avoid any common use of water or shared items.”
“It is paramount,” the Council say explains, “that we do not lower our guard in adhering strictly to the wearing of masks at all times in the worship service; the washing of hands with soap or sanitization before and after the service; sanitizing of all microphones and shared material; regular sanitizing of the places of worship; adequate social distancing in the places of worship.”
In their statement, the Interfaith Council appeals to religious leaders “to reiterate the importance of the preventative measures, especially wearing masks at all times in all public spaces.” They say religious leaders “have been outstanding in encouraging [their] congregations and ensuring compliance to the Interfaith Guidelines in places of Worship.”
The Council also calls on Kenyans to be vaccinated, saying, “this is the most definitive way to contain the power of the virus.”
The Interfaith Council was established by the Kenyan Government in June 2020, with a mandate to guide resumption of public worship. Cathlic Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Nyeria heads the Council, which also includes Anglicans, Presbyterians, and Muslims. Two other Catholic Bishops are also members.
So far, Kenya has seen more than 160,000 cases of Covid-19, with some 2800 deaths attributed to the pandemic.