Faith-based Organisations (FBOs) and Faith leaders are playing a valuable role and can play a further integral role in preventing the transmission of COVID-19 and supporting the country’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes public education, supporting their communities mental, social and spiritual needs, reducing stigma and discrimination and alleviating the community fear about the COVID-19. Along with these activities, it is also important that FBOs prepare for and prevent the transmission of COVID-19 in their community. The community also sees FBOs as credible sources of information and as places to seek help and refuge during times of crisis.
The purpose of this guidance is to prevent the likelihood of transmitting COVID-19 infection in Faith-based settings. The best way to prevent infection with COVID-19 is to minimise exposure to the virus. FBOs and faith-based communities are encouraged to modify and tailor these guidelines to make them consistent with their own faith traditions, beliefs and in keeping with government policies and guidance on the prevention of COVID-19 infection.
This information is based on currently available scientific evidence and expert opinion and is subject to change as new information becomes available. It should be read in conjunction with relevant national legislation, regulations, and policies. This document has been adapted for the Caribbean situation, and therefore may differ from guidance developed by other agencies.
This guidance serves as a minimum standard that should be adhered to by the relevant parties. At all times individuals are to adhere to the current Covid-19 Regulations and the National Policy on the Use of Antigen-Detecting Rapid Diagnostic Tests (“Lateral Flow Tests”).
This guidance covers considerations for preventing COVID-19 infection:
- Risk Assessment and Planning
- Reconfigure/Restructure for Physical (Social) Distancing
- Assign Teams to Promote Healthy Hygiene Practices
- Yield and Conduct Faith Activities Remotely/Virtually
- Encourage Use of Face Masks
- Routine Cleaning and Sanitisation
- Limit Community Sharing of Worship Materials
- Plan for When Someone Gets Sick at your Facility
- Educate Staff, Congregants and Community about COVID-19 Basic Facts
You can also download the full guidance below:
Risk Assessment and planning
- Conduct a risk assessment for the potential spread of COVID-19 based on your FBOs practices, and services in line with government policies and guidance on COVID-19. Consider suspending the use of religious rituals and traditions that may place staff and congregants at higher risk of getting COVID-19 infection. This should be done with the assistance of the Public Health department.
- After risk assessment, develop a COVID-19 Response Plan for your organisation and make the necessary modifications to address the risk. That should include at minimum the key actions listed in this document.
Reconfigure/Restructure fo Physical (Social) Distancing
- Limit the number of persons in attendance at gatherings such as faith services, funerals, weddings, religious education classes, youth events, support groups and any other events.
- Keep the duration of the faith gatherings to a minimum to limit contact among participants.
- Provide physical guides, such as tape on floors or walkways and signs on walls, to ensure that staff and children remain at least 6 feet (about 2 arms’ length) feet apart in lines and at other times (e.g. guides for creating “one-way routes” in hallways).
- As far as possible, seek to hold services and gatherings in a large, well-ventilated area or outdoors.
- Prevent touching between people attending faith services.
- Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, etc.
- Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety risk to children using the facility.
- Consider whether physical contact (e.g., shaking hands, hugging, or kissing) can be limited among members of the faith community.
Assign Teams to Promote Health Hygiene Practices among Staff and congregants
- Promote good hand hygiene by washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Put in place a handwashing station with or hand sanitiser with 60% to 80% alcohol (either ethanol, isopropanol or a combination), for those who can safely use hand sanitiser to support hand hygiene among participants in faith services and other activities when gatherings are permitted.
- Provide tissue and no-touch garbage cans.
- Encourage staff and congregants to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or use the inside of their elbow.
- Consider avoiding/reducing the touching or kissing of devotional and other objects that the community is accustomed to handling communally.
- Post signs on how to protect against contracting and spreading COVID-19 and proper hygiene practices such as these resources.
Yield and Conduct Faith Activities Remotely/Virtually as long as required
- Consider how your organisation can use technology to make the service or events available online.
- Ensure community contact lists are up-to-date and that ‘calling trees’ (call list) or other practices to account for individuals who may be living alone, elderly, and vulnerable are in place.
- Put plans in place to continue essential services if on-site operations are scaled back temporarily. For example, if possible, consider using telephone services, email, conference calls, and video conferencing.
- Conduct outreach visits by phone or online, especially if the individuals are in quarantine, isolation, or are taking precautions by staying at home.
Encourage use of facial masks per government recommendations
Promote the use of facial masks among staff and congregants based on government guidelines. Protect against persons who may have COVID-19 and are not aware as they have no symptoms. Facial masks are essential when social distancing is difficult.
Routine Cleaning and Sanitisation
- Routinely clean worship spaces, sites, and buildings immediately before and immediately after all gatherings.
- Use recommended methods to clean and sanitise after general use (no known exposure to anyone with COVID-19):
- Ensure that cleaners are not in a vulnerable group or self-isolating.
- Ensure all cleaners are provided with disposable gloves (ideally) to protect their skin from exposure to cleaning materials.
- Ensure to use cleaning materials based on government guidance.
- Ensure that ventilation systems operate properly and increase circulation of outdoor air as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans, etc. Do not open windows and doors if they pose a safety risk to children using the facility.
- If your faith community offers multiple services, consider scheduling services far enough apart to allow time for cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces between services.
Limit Community Sharing of Worship Materials and other items
- Temporarily limiting the sharing of frequently touched objects, for example, worship aids, prayer rugs, prayer books, hymnals, or other items passed or shared among congregants.
- Encourage congregants to bring their own such items, if possible, photocopy or project during service or send information via email.
- Modify the methods used to receive financial contributions e.g. use stationary collection box, or online methods of collection instead of shared collection trays or baskets.
- If food is offered at any event, consider pre-packaged options, and avoid buffet or family-style meals if possible.
Plan for when a staff member or congregant becomes sick at your facility
- Identify an area to separate anyone who exhibits symptoms of COVID-19 during hours of operation.
- Establish procedures for the safe movement of the person to isolation area and transport anyone who becomes sick at the facility to their home or a healthcare facility.
- If someone becomes sick, take them to an isolated room and make arrangements for them to leave as soon as possible. Ensure that children are not left without supervision.
- Notify Public Health officials if a person diagnosed with COVID-19 has been at your facility and communicate with staff and congregants about potential exposure while maintaining confidentiality.
- Consider providing counselling and support for those persons affected.
- High-risk groups for severe COVID-19 illness, such as persons over 60 years old and persons with underlying conditions or chronic illness (e.g. diabetes, and cancer) should limit attendance according to government recommendations.
Educate Staff, Congregants and the community on the basic facts of cOVID-19
- FBOs can assist with minimising panic, fear and stigma by educating communities on COVID-19 infection.
- Sermons and/or messages can build on factual information provided by CARPHA, PAHO/WHO, and the government that is in line with the doctrine or teaching and practice of the faith traditions.
- Information can be shared through the community’s network and on the webpage and social media platforms.
- Use Government's public education resources.