FOR SA and the outstanding legal team that we have been working with have made a close examination of the Regulations  and Directions promulgated by Government inasmuch as they affect the religious community in their “Places of Worship”.  This FAQ document details some of the frequently asked questions in this regard, and FOR SA’s interpretation of the applicable Regulations and Directions. Please note that the document is intended to serve as a Guideline only, and FOR SA cannot be held legally liable for reliance thereon. It remains the responsibility of every church or religious organisation to familiarise themselves with the Regulations and Directions that apply from time to time, and to obtain legal advice particular to them.

By all means freely distribute the FAQ document we have produced to your constituents.

View PART A on our Website


FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

(updated as at 14 July 2020)

PART B:

THE IMPLICATIONS OF ‘LEVEL 3’ FOR CHURCHES AND RELIGIOUS ORGANISATIONS AS PLACES OF WORSHIP / RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS

By Freedom of Religion South Africa (FOR SA)
(in consultation with a broader team of advocates and attorneys)

From 1 June 2020, churches and other religious organisations are allowed (subject to certain strict conditions) to re-open both for work, and for worship. The right and opportunity to “self-regulate”, clearly comes with a responsibility to proceed with great diligence and caution. Every effort has to be made to comply with the necessary legal obligations and protocols, to prevent unnecessary exposure and risk of members and the public at large .

It is important that members and congregants understand that each one of us has a responsibility to adhere to the legal obligations and protocols, to prevent the unnecessary spreading of the virus. Ultimately, however, the responsibility rests on religious leaders and/or persons in charge of religious organisations, to ensure full compliance. Failure to comply exposes the religious organisation and its leaders to legal risk in the form of criminal charges and/or civil claims.

The purpose of this document (comprising of a separate Part A, and PART B) is to assist churches and other religious organisations in their understanding and implementation of the Level 3 Regulations and Labour Directives issued in respect of the workplace (see Part A ), and the Directions issued in respect of religious gatherings ( PART B). When the Regulations for tertiary education are published, we will also prepare a guideline for bible schools.

Note that this document does not in any way replace, or address all the legal requirements arising from, the Level 3 Regulations, Labour Directives and Directions in respect of religious gatherings. It thus remains imperative for every church and religious organisation to familiarise themselves with the Level 3 Regulations, Labour Directives and Directions in respect of religious gatherings (and any other similar notices that Government may issue), and to ensure legal compliance with every aspect thereof .

Background:

On 28 May 2020, the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs issued Regulations for Alert Level 3, applying nationally from 1 June 2020 (“ the Level 3 Regulations ”). The effect of the Regulations is that all businesses and institutions, except those specifically mentioned in Table 2 of the Level 3 Regulations, may commence operations (although all persons who are able to work from home, must still do so).

This means that at Level 3, churches and other religious organisations are able to start operating, and that employees are permitted to – in phases, and subject to strict compliance with health protocols and social distancing measures – return to the office. Employees are also allowed, in the course of carrying out their work responsibilities, to travel between provinces, metropolitan areas, districts and hotspots – provided however they are in possession of a Form 2 permit issued by their employer. For some Frequently Asked Questions with regards to what this means for churches and other religious organisations as places of work, see Part A hereof.

In addition to the above regulations in respect of the workplace (i.e. to the extent that the church or religious organisation has an office, and/or persons in its employ), the COGTA Minister on 28 May 2020 also issued Directions in respect of places of worship (i.e. to the extent that religious gatherings take place at the church or religious organisation). These Directions, likewise, apply nationally from 1 June 2020. For some Frequently Asked Questions with regards to what the Directions mean for churches and other religious organisations as places of worship, see PART B hereof.

*Note: FOR SA has updated this document to reflect the various amendments to the Level 3 Regulations and Directives up until 14 July 2020.

PART B: PLACE OF WORSHIP / RELIGIOUS GATHERINGS

Q: Can my church, synagogue, mosque, temple etc. resume services?

A: In terms of the Directions, “any place or premises usually used for religious purposes; including churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other recognised places of worship ” may conduct gatherings for religious purposes, as long as there are maximum 50 people and the other conditions in the Directions are adhered to. (Clause 1 read with clause 3(1)).

Note that the Directions do state however that “ religious organisations should, where possible, convene services through virtual platforms (online and social media) ” (Clause 3(2)).

Q: Does it mean that my church, synagogue, mosque, temple etc “must” resume services?

A: No. Although the Directions legally allow places of worship to re-open, it does not mean that they “must” do so. Some may see gathering together as an essential tenet of their faith; others may not. Every denomination or organisation must decide for themselves, subject to being able to practically comply with all the legal protocols.

Equally, members of each faith community must decide for themselves whether or not to attend, based upon their personal health risk assessment and taking into account the possible knock-on effect on the most vulnerable members of our society and those with whom they will typically be in close contact or proximity. Religious leaders are encouraged to assist their members to make good, and wise, decisions in this regard.

In particular, the Directions encourage (but do not legally force) all persons over the age of 60, and persons with co-morbidities, to continue worshipping at home (Clause 8(7)).

Q: How far can a person travel to visit a church or place of worship?

A: In terms of the Level 3 Regulations, a person may leave his/her place of residence to attend a place of worship “in the same or another metropolitan area or district within the same province ” (Clause 33(1)(f)). Note that curfews may apply from time to time, thereby restricting movement during those hours.

In terms of the amended Level 3 Regulations effective from 12 July 2020, a national curfew applies between 21h00 and 04h00. As such, no movement of persons may take place during this time (except persons who are allowed to work under Level 3 and have the necessary permit, or persons attending a security or medical emergency). (Amended Clause 33(1)(A)).

Q: What must we do to get our church or place of worship ready, before we are able to resume services?

A: Your church or religious organisation must develop a (written) plan for gatherings incorporating the measures set out in the Regulations and Directions, and develop and maintain (written) protocols on how you will ensure that there are no more than 50 people within the place of worship at a time. (Clause 4(1)). We strongly advise, once the plan and protocols have been developed, that all religious leaders and persons in charge of services be familiarised with the plan and protocols so as to ensure full compliance with the law at all times.

Although, legally therefore, it is possible to resume services, the question is whether practically your church or organisation is ready and is able to comply with all the legal requirements set out in the Regulations and Directions.

Q: Can we have religious gatherings on Sundays only, or also on other days of the week?

A: The Directions do not limit religious gatherings to Sundays, or one day a week, only – as long as the gathering is “for religious purposes” (Clause 1), no more than 50 people and all other conditions in the Directions are adhered to (Clause 3(1)).

The Directions also do not limit religious gatherings to one per day. The only condition is that “ all religious services may not exceed 2 hours” and that there must be “a 30-minute intermission between services” (Clause 3(3)).

Q: Can we meet in homes?

A: Some religious leaders and organisations are interpreting the Directions to mean that people can also meet in individual homes (for home church / cell group).

FOR SA accordingly wrote to the COGTA Minister on 1 June 2020 to obtain clarity in this regard. The Minister replied to FOR SA in writing on 29 June 2020, stating that “ with regards to a place of worship, it does not include a place of residence or an individual home. Your concern for possible ambiguity in the definition is noted and will be considered accordingly”. Meetings in individual homes are therefore not allowed at this point in time.

Q: What if our services normally take place at a school hall, a conference venue, a cinema, theatre, or other premises not owned / operated by the church or religious organisation itself?

A: The Directions allow religious gatherings at “ any place or premises usually used for religious purposes” (Clause 1), and are therefore arguably broad enough to include school halls and other premises where the church or religious organisation “usually ” meets for religious purposes. It appears that, given the risk involved, the majority of schools are not comfortable at this stage to allow the resumption of church services at their premises. This is a matter of consultation however between the church (as lessee) and the school (as landlord). In other instances, for example, where a church meets at a privately owned property, it may be easier to obtain the landlord’s agreement.

In this regard, note that in terms of the Advanced Level 3 Regulations issued on 25 June 2020, conference and meeting venues, cinemas, theatres and restaurants are now open subject to certain conditions (Clause 37(1), read with the Directions on Risk Adjusted Strategy for Tourism Facilities, Services and Products issued by the Minister of Tourism on 28 June 2020). To the extent therefore that churches or religious organisations “usually” meet in, for example, a conference facility, cinema or theatre, they should be able to get permission from the landlord to continue meeting there during this time.

Q: Can we meet at a sports stadium or venue?

A: Yes. In terms of the Directions on the Suspension of Sport, Arts and Cultural Events issued by the Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture on 8 June 2020, religious gatherings (up to a maximum of 50 people) may take place at a “sporting venue” (Clause 6). A “sporting venue” is defined as “ a stadium, venue, sports ground, field, swimming pool and venue either enclosed or semi enclosed where matches or training may take place ” (Clause 2(a)).

Q: Can homegroups have a coffee or meal together in a restaurant?

A: Yes. In terms of the Advanced Level 3 Regulations, restaurants are allowed to re-open subject to certain strict conditions (Clause 37(1), read with Clause 5 of the Tourism Directions). The Advanced Level 3 Regulations also specifically allow people to leave their homes and to travel for leisure purposes as allowed under Alert Level 3 (Clause 33(1)(h)), including therefore to visit a restaurant.

As such, there is no reason why a homegroup cannot visit a restaurant together – on condition that they comply with all the health and sanitisation protocols that are binding on restaurants, including wearing a cloth mask at all times except when eating or drinking (Clause 5.6(c) of the Tourism Directions) and sit 1.5 metres apart from each other (Clause 5.6(g) of the Tourism Directions).

Q: Can we have ‘drive-in’ religious gatherings in the car park?

A: As the Directions are not clear in this regard, FOR SA wrote to the COGTA Minister on 1 June 2020 for clarity and recommended that the Directions be amended to allow for ‘drive-in’ religious gatherings. ‘Drive-in’ gatherings clearly present a much lower risk of infection than physically meeting together in a confined space because (except for the use of ablution facilities, which can be sanitized) people remain in their cars.

The Minister replied to FOR SA in writing on 29 June 2020, stating that “ drive-in gatherings are not currently provided for. However, the fact that an increased number of people will have to share the same ablution facilities, may pose a risk”. ‘Drive-in’ gatherings are therefore not allowed at this point in time.

*Note that FOR SA has written to the COGTA Minister again on 30 June 2020, to make a case for the permission of ‘drive-in’ religious gatherings, as recommended also by the (draft) Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of COVID-19 Infection at Places of Worship in the Western Cape . We are yet to receive a response to our letter.

Q: What is a “religious gathering” – does it only refer to Sunday services, or does it allow for other types of meetings as well?

A: A “religious gathering” is defined as “ a gathering at a place of worship for religious purposes” (Clause 1). As long as the meeting is, therefore “for religious purposes”, no more than 50 people are gathered, and all the protocols in the Directions are observed, the meeting can take place.

Q: What about weddings – can people get married, and where?

A: FOR SA’s view is that the definition of “religious gathering” should be broad enough to include wedding ceremonies (i.e. the official / legal part of getting married, in front of a religious marriage officer) at the church or place of worship. The same limitation of 50 people, and all other health and social distancing protocols in the Directions apply. What is not allowed, however, is the reception (or “party” as the COGTA Minister put it).

In addition, religious marriage officers may marry couples at the church office (i.e. outside of a “religious gathering” at the church). If the church or religious organisation does not have an official office, the marriage officer may marry the couple at the office at his/her house, with only the couple and the two witnesses present. (In this regard, see a recent announcement by the Minister of Home Affairs).

Note that, because social gatherings remain prohibited in terms of the Level 3 Regulations (Clause 37(1)), weddings other than set out above (for e.g. at a wedding venue, or a small gathering of family and friends at someone’s house) also remain prohibited at this stage. The only other option is for the couple to get married in front of a marriage officer at the Department of Home Affairs, in the presence of their two witnesses also.

Q: With restaurants being allowed to re-open, can the wedding reception (the “party”) take place at a restaurant?

A: As pointed above, social gatherings remain prohibited in terms of the Level 3 Regulations (Clause 37(1)). The Advanced Level 3 Regulations do however allow restaurants to re-open subject to certain strict conditions (Clause 37(1)(l), read with Clause 5 of the Tourism Directions). Interestingly, neither the Regulations nor the Directions limit restaurants to any particular number of guests. Presumably, therefore, they can accommodate as many guests as the restaurant is able to handle subject to the stipulated protocols, including that a physical distance of 1.5 metres need to be maintained between restaurant staff and guests, and between guests, at all times.

Technically speaking, therefore (although it is arguable that this is not what the Regulations and/or Directions intended, and there is therefore risk involved), a wedding couple should be able to book a restaurant for their reception, subject to compliance with all the health, sanitisation and physical distancing requirements as well as the particular Directions applying to restaurants. (The solemnization of the wedding, i.e. the legal / official part, must however take place as part of a “religious gathering” at a church or place of worship, or in front of a religious marriage officer at the church office or his/her house if there is no office, as set out above.)

Q: What about funerals?

A: In terms of the Directions, funeral / memorial services can take place at churches or other places of worship, but are limited also to 50 people in line with the Regulations (Clause 8(8) of the Directions). Note in particular that no night vigils are allowed (Clause 35(3) of the Regulations).

Q: Which type of meetings specifically do the Directions apply to?

A: The Directions apply to any, and all, meetings of whatever kind (including therefore services, prayer meetings, counselling meetings, leaders’ meetings, training meetings, etc.) taking place at places of worship. In terms of Clause 8(5), “ where places of worship remain open to the public for visits, prayer or counselling, the provisions of these Directions apply”.

Q: How should the limitation of 50 people be applied – does it mean 50 people per site, or per building / venue / auditorium / hall?

A: As the Directions are not clear in this regard, FOR SA wrote to the COGTA Minister on 1 June 2020 for clarity. The Minister replied to FOR SA in writing on 29 June 2020, stating that “ in terms of the number, the current regulations are explicit about the maximum number of 50 congregants that are allowed on the premises, irrespective of the number of buildings and the size thereof. Noting your concerns, any amendments will be considered after weighing up various factors. Ultimately, it will require a policy position on the matter”. According to the Minister, therefore, the limitation of 50 people is per premises.

*Note that FOR SA has written to the COGTA Minister again on 30 June 2020, to make a case that the 50 people should be “per venue with separate entrance”, and also for the fixing of the limit as a percentage of the normal seating capacity e.g. 50% of the available floor space (as applies in the case of casinos under the Advanced Level 3 Regulations). We are yet to receive a response to our letter.

Q: Does the 50 people limitation include the pastor, the ushers, the worship / sound team? Does it include children?

A: The limitation of 50 people includes everyone. Note also that 50 is the maximum number of people allowed with the required social distancing of 1.5 metres between persons attending (Clause 5(1)(b)). In other words, the number of people allowed at a religious gathering is proportional to the number of people that the building can accommodate taking into account the required social distancing.

Q: Can ‘children’s church’, or similar activities for children of other faith groups, be resumed?

A: In terms of Directions issued by the Minister of Social Development on 10 July 2020, early childhood development centres (ECDCs) and partial-care facilities are allowed to re-open subject to certain conditions. On a plain reading, however, the Directions are not applicable to ‘children’s church’, which – because of the broad definition of “partial care” in the Children’s Act – is regarded as a partial-care facility.

Given the uncertainty on this issue, FOR SA wrote to the COGTA Minister on 1 June 2020 already for clarity.The Minister replied to FOR SA in writing on 29 June 2020, indicating that “ your concern about children’s church in relation to ECDCs is noted. These issues are being considered in the various structures. Once again it will require a policy decision on the matter. In terms of the number, the 50 persons allowed in the gathering, includes children. There is no distinction between adults and children in the regulations.”

It appears therefore that children’s church is not currently permitted. This does not, of course, mean that children cannot come to church with their parents – only that other persons may not supervise / take care of children while their parents are in the normal service.

*Note that FOR SA has written to the Minister again on 30 June 2020, to make a case for allowing partial care of small children during religious gatherings. We are yet to receive a response to our letter.

Q: How do we get the building ready for a religious gathering?

A: In terms of the Directions, every place of worship must:

– Have sufficient hand sanitiser (of at least 70% alcohol, or a generic alternative) available at the entrance of, and in, the place of worship which all attendees are required to use (Clauses 7(1) and 7(2)(a));

– Ensure that there are facilities for the washing of hands with water and soap (Clause 7(2)(b)). (Please ensure that paper towels, rather than cloth towels, are used).

– Implement measures to ensure that all surfaces and equipment are cleaned / sanitised before and after religious activities, and before the next one commences (Clause 7(3)(a));

– Ensure that all areas such as toilets, common areas, door handles, electronic equipment and objects are sanitised as regularly as possible as required in the circumstances to prevent spread of the virus (Clause 7(3)(c)).

In order to ensure proper social distancing of at least 1.5 metres between persons (Clauses 5(1)(b) and 8(1)), we further strongly advise marking out where people should sit / stand for worship.

It is also a good idea to make sure that the building is well-ventilated before, after and to the extent possible, during religious gatherings.

Q: What is expected of us as a church or religious organisation as people arrive for the service?

A: Full compliance with all the legal requirements in the Regulations and Directions. In particular, all religious leaders or persons in charge of worship must ensure that every person who enters:

– Wears a face mask covering his nose and mouth at all times (Clauses 4(1)(a) and 6(1)). No mask, no entry. (Churches and religious organisations may want to keep some spare masks for visitors that may arrive on the day). Note that it is now a criminal offence to allow a person into a building, place or premises without a face mask, punishable by a fine, up to six (6) months’ imprisonment, or even both (amended Clause 14(5) of the Level 3 Regulations).

– Sprays / is sprayed with hand sanitizer (containing at least 70% alcohol content, or a generic alternative with a similar sanitizing effect – Clause 7(1)).

– Completes an attendance register with the following details: full names; residential address; cell number, telephone number or e-mail address; as well as the contact details of persons living in the same residence as the person attending the religious activity (Clause 8(2)). (Note that there may be no sharing of pens, alternatively, pens need to be properly sanitized before/after every use – Clause 7(3)(b)).

– Is physically screened for symptoms (Clause 4(2)(a)). Any one or more symptoms, no entry. (Clause 4(4)). (This will require the purchasing of temperature check devices. Note that anyone with a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius, must be sent home).

– In addition, reports whether they suffer from any of the additional symptoms stipulated in Clause 4(2)(b)). (This will require drawing up an attendance register, and symptoms assessment form, to be completed and signed by every person upon entering). Any one or more symptoms, no entry (Clause 4(4)).

– If he/she starts experiencing any of the symptoms, immediately informs the religious leader or person in charge (Clause 4(2) c)). (It would be good to include this as a standard announcement at the beginning of every service). If this happens, there are certain duties on the religious leader or person in charge (see Clause 4(3)).

In addition, all attendees should be informed about the dangers of COVID-19 and how to prevent it (Clause 8(3)).

*Note that the above protocols apply to any “religious gathering” (i.e. meeting for religious purposes) or “religious activity” that takes place at the place of worship – not just Sunday services. (Clause 8(5)).

Q: Can any of the above be done online / before the time?

A: In terms of the Directions, every person entering the place of worship must be physically screened for symptoms, and report whether – at the time of entering – they suffer from additional symptoms. As such, this cannot be done before the time.

From a practical point of view, we recommend that churches or religious organisations prepare a template symptoms assessment and screening form, to be completed by every person at every “religious gathering”. While some of the information (including personal details of the attendee, and the person/s they live with) can be completed before the meeting, it is important that the person confirms in writing that , at the time of entering the “place of worship”, he/she does not suffer any symptoms and also records his/her body temperature at the time.

Q: What are the social distancing requirements?

A: Every religious leader or person in charge, must ensure (in terms of Clause 5) that:

– There is no physical contact between persons (including hugging, kissing, hand-shaking at the door, etc);

– There is a minimum of one and a half metres between persons at all times. (This could be done by putting down markers where people should sit / stand. Note that the same distancing is required as people queue up outside / inside the building, to sign attendance registers and complete symptom assessment forms).

Q: What about any rituals that require personal contact, e.g. laying on of hands?

The Directions prohibit “ any religious ritual that requires personal contact” (Clause 6(2)). This means that touching people (on any part of their body) while praying for them, or washing feet, is prohibited.

From a common-sense point of view, this clearly does not apply between family members who live in the same household (e.g. husband and wife, parents and children). It would also not apply to a couple getting married (and having to exchange rings, etc) during a religious gathering.

Q: Is it possible to baptise people during this time?

A: Because of the prohibition on physical touch (Clause 6(2)), there may be limitations on the way in which baptisms are performed during this time. In particular, it should be done without the religious leader or person who is doing the baptising, physically touching the person who is being baptised (goes under the water).

Note that at Level 3, beaches are still closed. Baptisms are thus restricted to baptism pools at places of worship, private swimming pools or the person’s bath at home, etc. While it may be possible for the religious leader to (in the course of his/her work responsibilities as a pastor, and with a Form 2 permit) attend at the person’s house for purposes of baptising him/her, social gatherings remain prohibited and other friends / family will thus not be allowed to witness the baptism in person (but can of course do so via video).

Q: What about taking communion at a religious gathering?

In terms of the Directions, “ no substance or liquid may be shared between persons” (Clause 8(6)). This would include the sharing of elements during communion.

To the extent possible, therefore, congregants should be encouraged to bring their own communion emblems. Alternatively, the emblems could be placed on chairs prior to the meeting already, or pre-packed disposable communion packs could be ordered, or communion could be distributed by a person wearing sterile gloves.

Q: What about taking up tithes and offerings?

A: The Directions require that “ any person counting offerings or gifts must sanitise their hands before, during and after the counting of offerings or gifts and must ensure that he/she does not touch his/her face during the process ” (Clause 6(3)). (Where possible, the church or religious organisation should be encouraged to do EFTs rather than bringing physical money to church. If money has to be collected physically, it would be wise, for example, to leave boxes in front of the church where people can drop their tithes and offerings without physically passing containers around, which is prohibited in terms of Clause 7(3)(b)).

Q: What are the requirements for congregational singing and worship?

A: In terms of the Directions, “ singing of hymns is limited to solo performances, or pre-recorded performances during the religious service or activity ” (Clause 5(d)). Practically, this means that congregational singing (even behind masks which must be worn at all times) is – because of the higher risk of spreading that comes with singing and shouting – not allowed. (It would be wise, at the start of the service / worship, to advise or remind congregants accordingly. This does not, of course, prevent people from, for example, raising their hands as a means of participating in worship.)

Q: What does it mean for the worship leader / band?

A: In terms of Clause 5(1)(d), worship could take the form either of a “ solo performance” (i.e. one person only singing during the service), or a “pre-recorded performance” (for example, a worship CD or video playing. It could also include a pre-recorded performance – on CD, or video – by the church’s worship band. As such, the band would, for this purpose, be allowed to meet at the church building during the week, subject to all health and social distancing protocols being observed).

The Directions do not exclude the possibility of a “worship band” on stage. The only requirements are that there must be one person only singing (with the rest of the band playing on instruments only); if the person who sings cannot do so without a face mask, he/she must stand 2.5 metres away from everyone else (Clause 5(2)). If he/she is not singing, and at all other times, he/she must wear his/her face mask (Clause 6(1)).

The rest of the band must all wear face masks, and stand 1.5 metres away from each other (Clause 5(1)(b)).

Q: What does it mean for preaching?

A: If the preacher cannot preach without a face mask, he must ensure that he stands 2.5 metres away from anyone else (Clause 5(2)). If the preacher is not preaching, and at all other times, he/she must wear his/her face mask (Clause 6(1)).

In terms of the Directions further, there may be no “ sharing of equipment, objects, or religious scriptures” (Clause 7(3)(b)). This means that the worship leader and preacher may not share the same microphone. Alternatively, the microphone cap needs to be replaced and the microphone itself properly sanitised before and after use by different users.

Q: Are there particular requirements for the filming of religious content (e.g. worship, preach, announcements, etc) during this time?

A: Yes. In terms of the Directions for Live Streaming of the Creative Sector issued by the Minister of Sports, Arts and Culture on 8 June 2020, there are some specific, additional requirements for Film and Television productions using local cast, living legends and crew; for Creative Sector Services; and for Music recordings.

These Directions include that, for Film and Television productions using local cast, living legends and crew (including jobs throughout the value chain of production, post-production such as technical crew and sound engineers, special effects and animators), the following protocols:

– All health protocols (pertaining to wearing of masks, sanitization, etc) and social distancing measures must be adhered to. In addition, the stipulated requirements for content production include the following:

o Information regarding the risk of spreading COVID-19, and what behaviour is expected from everyone on set, must be visibly displayed in common areas and copied also to all personnel.

o A daily routine must be established, and followed, for the sanitisation of the workplace area before the shoot commences, and during each shoot day, and after wrap each day. There must be dedicated cleaning staff to sanitise and clean bathroom spaces on a regular basis throughout the day.

o A daily register of all persons granted access to the set with details of their daily temperature must be complied.

o Where possible, all crew and cast must use their own transport.

o Catered meals and craft must be packed in boxes per person with sealed cutlery. Alternatively, they must bring their own meals. There may be no shared craft and catering areas. Crew and cast must bring, or be supplied with, their own water bottles.

In relation to the Creative sector (which is defined as including filming content, productions of commercials and entertainment for broadcasters and live streaming using local cast and crew), the Directions provide that all of the above shall apply. In addition, the productions should somehow add storylines in support of COVID-19 safety measures.

Finally, in relation to Music recordings (for local broadcast, streaming and digital platforms), the Directions state that all health protocols (including therefore wearing of masks, sanisitisation, etc) and social distancing measures must be adhered to.

Q: Can we sell, or serve, coffee / tea before or after the service?

A: The Advanced Level 3 Regulations issued on 25 June 2020, allow for the re-opening of restaurants, coffee shops etc. on condition that these establishments comply with the health, sanitisation and social distancing protocols in the Regulations and Tourism Directions . As such, there is no reason why a church cannot open its restaurant or coffee shop to congregants (for sit-down, or take away) before or after the meeting, as long as they comply with all the stipulated legal requirements for restaurants.

The legal obligations on restaurants and coffee shops (including those on church premises), are however distinct from, and separate to, the legal obligations that apply to “religious gatherings”. These Directions do not specifically mention whether coffee / tea may be served, but certainly do not prohibit it. Importantly however, the Directions do make it clear that “ social activities before and after the religious activity is not allowed ” (Clause 8(4)). In other words, people must arrive for, and leave immediately after, the service – no socialising or fellowshipping is allowed. (It would be good to, at the start and close of the service, advise or remind congregants accordingly).

Churches or religious organisations who are going to serve coffee / tea, must therefore make very sure that they do so in a manner that does not encourage or allow socialising or fellowshipping of congregants before, or after, the service. From a health and sanitisation point of view, it is also advisable to serve coffee / tea in paper (or take-away) cups and to, for example, have one person serve milk and sugar to congregants, rather than having multiple people touching the same milk jug or sugar spoon.

Q: What is expected of a church or religious organisation once the religious gathering is over?

A: In terms of the Directions:

– ensure that there is at least a 30-minute intermission between services (Clause 3(3));

– fill up the hand sanitiser units, so as to ensure that there is sufficient hand sanitiser available at the entrance of, and in, the place of worship for the next gathering (Clauses 7(1) and 7(2)(a));

– ensure that there is still sufficient soap at the washing facilities for the next gathering (Clause 7(2)(b));

– ensure that all surfaces and equipment are cleaned / sanitised (Clause 7(3)(a)). (This means wiping down all the chairs / benches / pews, etc).

– ensure that all areas such as toilets, common areas, door handles, electronic equipment and objects are sanitised (Clause 7(3)(c)).

– ensure that the attendance register, and symptoms assessment forms, completed by attendees are kept for a period of not less than 6 months (Clause 8(2)).

Q: What happens if someone starts presenting symptoms during the religious gathering?

A: In terms of the Directions, if a congregant starts experiencing any symptoms (fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, body aches, loss of smell or taste, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fatigue, weakness or tiredness), he/she must immediately inform the religious leader or person in charge of the religious activity (Clause 4(2)(c)). If this happens (or if the religious leader or person in charge of the religious activity observes that a person is displaying visible symptoms e.g. coughing or sneezing), he/she must:

– Not permit the person to enter the place of worship (Clause 4(3)(a) read with Clause 4(4)). If the person is already there, isolate the person, and assist the person to make arrangements to be transported home in a manner that does not place other persons or members of the public at risk (Clause 4(3)(b)).

– Assess the risk of transmission, disinfect the area, refer those persons who may be at risk for screening, and take any other appropriate measure to prevent possible transmission (Clause 4(3)(c)).

– Obtain from the person who is to be isolated, the contact details (including name, address and telephone numbers) of the people they have been in contact with since entering the meeting (Clause 4(3)(d)).

Q: What happens if a person who attended a religious gathering, tests positive for COVID-19?

A: In terms of the Directions, should any person test positive for COVID-19 within fourteen (14) days of attending a religious gathering, he/she must immediately inform the religious leader (Clause 4(3)). Upon receipt of the above information, and from a practical point of view, we recommend the following process:

– The religious leader must immediately inform the Compliance Officer of the church or religious organisation.

– As part of the Church’s or religious organisation’s care of its members, the Compliance Officer will enquire of the infected individual whether he/she needs assistance in obtaining appropriate medical care, while self-isolating either in his/her home or in an appropriate facility for fourteen (14) calendar days since onset of symptoms. [1]

– The Compliance Officer must confirm whether the provincial hotline has been phoned and the provincial Department of Health (“the Department”) has been informed of the infected case, either by the infected individual or the attending physician.Should the Department not have been informed at the time of communication with the infected individual, the Compliance Officer should do so, in order to report the communicable disease and to also request further advice/assistance in managing the outbreak.

– The Compliance Officer may also be called upon to assist with contact tracing under the guidance of the Department and to this end, may (and if called upon by the Department, must) provide the congregation’s attendance register for the particular meeting attended by the infected individual along with the contact details of other congregants in attendance.

– The Compliance Officer must determine the following from the infected person:

– The Compliance Officer, in co-operation with the religious leader, must – with reference to the infected individual’s Symptoms Assessment Form completed at the last meeting he/she attended, as well as the congregation’s attendance register for that particular meeting – identify who (church employees, other congregants, etc.) the infected individual may have come into “close contact” with at the Church. In this regard, note that – on advice of the medical practitioner forming part of the Church’s COVID-19 Task Force Team – the following shall apply:

o The National Institute for Communicable Diseases’ (NCID’s) definition of “close contact” [2] would include religious meetings longer than 15 minutes. As such, all 49 (or fewer) congregants who attended the meeting where the infected individual was present, must be regarded as having had “close contact” with him/her.

  • a person who attended a meeting with them, has tested positive for Covid-19. (Note that, from a protection of personal information point of view, the Compliance Officer should not disclose the infected person’s name. Where another congregant requires proof of “close contact” with an infected individual (for example, for his/her employer), the Compliance Officer should obtain the infected individual’s consent before divulging any personal particulars (for e.g. age, gender, risk factors, etc) to another person.
  • they should self-isolate for fourteen (14) calendar days, and monitor their symptoms; and
  • if they develop symptoms, they will be regarded as a Person Under Investigation (PUI) and must contact both the Department of Health and the Compliance Officer to advise him accordingly.

– The Compliance Officer must keep a record of:

– The Compliance Officer must ensure that all areas / surfaces /objects that the infected person may have come into contact with, are cleaned and sanitised, having regard in particular to the (draft) Guidelines for the Prevention and Management of COVID-19 Infections at Places of Worship in the Western Cape and any other official protocols or guidelines that may apply.

– Temporarily closure of the “place of worship” may be necessary to allow time for contact tracing and cleaning, but is not required if this can be done before the next meeting (whether on Sunday, or another day) in the same venue.

– A person who has tested positive for COVID-19 may return to a religious gathering at the following time:

END.


[1] Note that the timeline is as follows: Person becomes infected; 5-6 days (but up to 14 days) after infection, he/she starts showing symptoms; infection remains in the body for up to 14 days after being infected, if it is not complicated by hospitalisation. To ensure completion of the infectious process, the person must self-isolate for 14 days from onset of symptoms.

[2] In this regard, see www.nicd.ac.za/diseases-a-z-index/covid-19/advice-for-the-public/what-to-do-if-i-am-a-close-contact-of-a-person-with-confirmed-disease-and-am-asked-to-home-quarantine/