Many mosques around England will reopen their doors on July 4 after the government gave the green light for gatherings of more than 30 people in places of worship and their surrounding premises.
In guidance published today the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government said although mosques may reopen they must still adhere to social distancing guidelines which would be two metres or one metre with risk mitigation.
The government said: “Places of worship and faith communities should adapt religious services, especially where ceremonies would otherwise have taken place over a number of hours or days, to ensure the safety of those present and minimise spread of infection. It is advised that the ceremonies and services should be concluded in the shortest reasonable time.
“Once completed, participants should be encouraged to move on promptly, to minimise the risk of contact and spread of infection. If appropriate, you should reconfigure spaces to enable worshippers to be seated rather than standing which reduces the risk of contact.
“It is recommended that, where possible, places of worship continue to stream worship or other events to avoid large gatherings and to continue to reach those individuals who are self-isolating or particularly vulnerable to COVID-19.”
The government also advised that:
- Individuals should be prevented from touching or kissing objects that are handled communally.
- Reusable and communal resources such as prayer mats, religious texts or devotional material should be removed from use.
- Items owned by the individual to aid worship such as a prayer mat or religious text, can be brought in but should be removed again by the worshipper.
- The sharing of food should be avoided, as should the use of communal vessels.
- Any washing/ablution rituals should not be done at the place of worship but carried out prior to arrival.
- Faith leaders should discourage cash donations and continue to use online or contactless giving.
- Anyone showing symptoms of COVID-19 should not attend the place of worship due to the risk that they pose to others; they should self-isolate at home immediately with other members of their household.
- Remote participation should be considered, for example by live streaming.
- At-risk groups such as those aged 70 or older are advised to stay at home as much as possible and, if they do go out, to take particular care to minimise contact with others outside of their household.
Commenting on the government guidelines the Muslim Council of Britain said mosques should not rush to reopen.
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the MCB, said: “With Muslims able to go back to the mosque for congregational worship from this weekend, the publication of the UK Government’s guidance as to how to do this safely is welcome.
“Mosques must not feel rushed into re-opening, but should only take this step when they feel it is safe to do so within their individual context. The MCB’s 9-step guide to re-opening has practical advice specifically for mosques on this.
“It is imperative that communities take all practical precautions, from members not attending if they are high risk, to mosque leaders not re-opening until they are able to put all the necessary measures to do this safely in place.
“With the threat of a second wave ever-present, we must continue to do all we can to ensure the preservation of life is our priority.”
Although many mosques are expected to reopen from July 4 onwards, 5Pillars is not aware of any official announcements to that effect.
However, mosques have told their congregations that they are working to ensure a safe reopening as early as possible, risk assessments are being carried out and new procedures are being formulated to adhere to public health guidelines.
For example, the Islamic Association of North London told its congregation: “When the mosque eventually reopens, there will be significant changes from what we were used to. There will be a need for us to observe social distancing and strict hygiene measures. Inevitably the available space will limit the number of attendees, and some of us who are individually at higher risk will need to be cautious about attending gatherings.”