Churches allowed up to 50% capacity to ensure social distancing: SDMC

Uggah addressing a press conference. Also seen is Minister for Local Government and Housing Datuk Seri Dr Sim Kui Hian (behind).

By Karen Bong

KUCHING, June 17: Standard operating procedures (SOP) for churches reopening including reduced capacity apply to all types of churches, including those housed in shop lots or premises of their own.

State Disaster Management Committee (SDMC) chairman Datuk Amar Douglas Uggah Embas emphasised that the key is to practice social distancing by reducing the capacity to at least 50 per cent inside the building for safe reopening.

“Even though we have estimated the number of people allowed inside certain buildings of churches by taking account of the size of space, but if the space is small, it can only allow 50 per cent of its total capacity,” he told a daily press conference on Covid-19 today.

On enforcement to ensure compliance with SOP in churches, the Deputy Chief Minister admitted that this has always been a challenge not only for churches but also for all business premises.

“While we have a task force to monitor compliance, the most important is for all management of the premises and places to play their role because that’s for the good of everybody, for their families including church members,” he said.

To strengthen efforts in fighting the Covid-19 in Sarawak, Uggah informed that a community policing programme will be introduced next week.

“Eventually, the success for us to win this war is the participation of all communities.

“We have Village Development and Security Committees (JKKK), People’s Volunteer Corps (Rela), Neighbourhood Committee (KRT), Saberkas and various non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The community themselves must play their part,” he added.

Meanwhile, non-Muslims places of worship including churches in Sarawak will be allowed to reopen from June 20.

The Association of Churches in Sarawak (ACS) has already presented a draft of the SOP for the reopening of churches to the Unit for Other Religions (Unifor).

Its chairman Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kuching Simon Poh emphasised that all preparations and relevant SOP such as social distancing and protocols, including wearing face masks, checking body temperatures and providing hand sanitisers, should be in place before any church is allowed to welcome worshippers.

However, he also said that there is no rush to reopen churches in Sarawak for Sunday services in the near future as the Covid-19 situation in Sarawak needs to be monitored closely to prevent the second wave of infections.—DayakDaily