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B.C. gives green light to worship services

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 3:07 PDT, Fri March 26, 2021

The province has released detailed rules on the resumption of in-person worship services. This includes the requirement that people not gather or socially engage before, during or after a service.

Organizers of all religious services are required to caution attendees who may be at higher risk of serious complications from COVID-19: people aged 70 and above—even if they are immunized—and people with underlying medical conditions or compromised immune systems. All participants must be pre-registered to control attendance and for contact tracing purposes. Hand sanitation supplies must be provided, and a health check completed for all attendees. 

People are required to keep a distance of two metres from others who do not live in their household. And, everyone must wear a face covering—with a few exceptions.

A worship leader, reader or soloist can remove their face covering while speaking, singing or chanting provided they are three metres away from others or there is a physical barrier in place. Up to five musicians can be present, and may also remove their face covering if necessary to play their instrument provided the same conditions are met. Choirs are not permitted.

Face coverings are not required for people under 12-years-old, those who can’t put on or take off a face covering unaided, or those who are unable to wear one due to “a psychological, behavioural or health condition” or “a physical, cognitive or mental impairment,” according to documents released March 23 and 25 by the provincial health officer.

People can temporarily remove their face covering to consume food or drink provided during and for the purpose of worship. There can be no passing or sharing of items, except food or drink “placed in a sanitary manner in single use containers” for worship purposes, according to the provincial health officer order.

Additionally, people are permitted to stand 1.2 metres apart for up to 10 minutes for ritual congregational prayers, if this is part of their religious practice.

For indoor services, the maximum attendance is either 50 people or 10 per cent of the venue’s capacity, whichever is lower. That number must include worship leaders, readers, soloists, musicians and volunteers. Doors and windows should be kept open if possible, and the space must be cleaned, sanitized and ventilated between services if multiple sessions are taking place.

For outdoor services, the maximum attendance is 50 people, as well as people in 50 vehicles. People attending in vehicles must remain in their vehicle.

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