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Churches back to full capacity – Archdiocese updates guidelines

Pre-registration, and signing-in for Masses has been suspended as restrictions on the number of persons physically present and time spent at places of worship have been lifted.

It is now no longer required that ministers, hospitality members, lectors or choir members be vaccinated against Covid-19 to serve in their chosen ministry, according to the Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) Team of the Archdiocese’s ‘Updated Guidelines for Operating During the Covid-19 Pandemic’ Bulletin #24.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, in the House of Representatives on March 4, announced the relaxation of regulations as Covid-19 moves to endemic phase. Mask wearing in public spaces and gatherings remains mandated.

The latest HSE Bulletin stated: “We are permitted to accommodate the full, pre-pandemic capacity in our places of worship. As an interim measure, we have suggested a reduction of the safe physical distance to a 3-foot separation to accommodate, without prejudice, worshippers who may have health vulnerabilities but choose to partake of in-person worship.”

All worshippers, ministers, lectors, and choir members must always keep their face mask on even when presiding from the altar, reading from the lectern, delivering announcements and/or singing. Masks should only be lowered for a moment to consume Holy Communion.

Hand washing or sanitising with an alcohol-based sanitiser continues to be a requirement on arrival/before entry into the church.

The bulletin stated that all worshippers are required to undertake a temperature screening at the door. “Individuals with a body temperature of 37.5C or higher should be discreetly denied entry.”

The HSE Team strongly recommends that every effort be made to facilitate a minimum of a three-foot physical distancing between individuals. However, if others turn up for Mass/Service, “they should not be sent away”.

They stipulate there should be designated seating for families and members of the same household who need not observe physical distancing.

Holy Communion will continue to be distributed “at arm’s length to recipients…thus achieving close to six (6) feet physical distance between Priest/Minister and Communicant”— on the palm only. The Blood of Christ will not be distributed as the HSE Team will continue to evaluate the risk of transmission of significant infection from a communal cup and advise in future updates.

For the Sign of Peace, non-contact gestures such as a nod of the head, will continue. Hand-washing facilities and alcohol-based sanitiser must be provided for priests and ministers of Holy Communion before distributing the hosts. The Offertory Procession is to be omitted.

The passing of baskets during the collection is not allowed. The HSE advised that baskets affixed to long handles can be used once those collecting can maintain physical distancing. Alternatively, parishes should use fixed collection boxes.

After Mass, the HSE stipulates that common surfaces must be cleaned and sanitised after every service, all Communion vessels must be washed in hot, soapy water and all liturgical vestments must be cleaned regularly. Restroom facilities are to be sanitised after each liturgy.

The public is reminded to adhere to good hygiene practices, not congregate in crowds, wear well-fitting masks i.e., covering the nose and mouth. Churches should have effective ventilation by opening windows and/or turning on fans.

For Covid-19 updates in the Archdiocese of Port of Spain visit: