The Government today decided to reopen places of worship by the first week of October 2020, “if the Covid-19 situation improves” in the State.
The decision was taken after a meeting was convened under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Conrad Sangma, Deputy Chief Minister Prestone Tynsong and members from different faith-based organiations.
Tynsong said a sub-committee consisting of members from different faith-based organisations and the government headed by the Chief Secretary is being constituted.
The committee would work out modalities on the specific standard operating procedures (SOPs) that would be put in place at the places of worship once they are reopened.
“If the situation improves, we are ready to reopen places of worship by the first week of October,” the Deputy Chief Minister said.
Earlier, the State government allowed places of worship to hold regular services from June 14 with SOPs. The decision was taken after convening a similar meeting between the Chief Minister and religious leaders from across the State Capital.
A draft SOP was also circulated among all the religious organisations. Under the guidelines, people above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years were not permitted to visit the places of worship.
Individuals had to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet and the entrance should have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions. All persons are to be allowed entry only if they use face cover or masks.
Touching of statues, idols, holy books etc., were not to be allowed. No physical offerings like prasad, distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc., were to be allowed inside the religious places, as per the draft SOPs.
However, four days later on June 9, the order was revised as COVID-19 cases continued to rise. Keeping on hold the previous order to reopen, Sangma said that “after consultation with different religious organisations, the Government decided to put on hold the reopening of religious institutions on June 14 in Meghalaya.”
Meanwhile, several places of worship have been holding their services on Facebook live and through other social media all this while to reach out to the faithfuls.