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Monday, Nov 30, 2020

Coronavirus: Church leaders call for face coverings at services

Coronavirus: Church leaders call for face coverings at services

The leaders of NI's four main Christian churches have asked parishioners to wear face coverings during services.

The heads of the Church of Ireland, Methodist Church, Catholic and Presbyterian Churches said it was their responsibility "to ensure that our services of worship are safe places".

The move comes following consultations with health authorities.

The statement said face coverings should be used alongside two-metre social distancing.

Currently, under the rules in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland face coverings are not mandatory at services of worship.

In its statement, the churches said this is due in part to people attending services in household groups and maintaining two-metre social distancing.

'Reduce the spread'


"We join with Christian church leaders all over this island in formally recommending and encouraging the use of face coverings at all services of worship, along with the ongoing maintenance of two-metre physical distancing, from Sunday 30 August 2020, and earlier if practicable," the statement said.

"It has become increasingly clear that the wearing of face coverings, in conjunction with hand washing etc... is likely to reduce the spread of coronavirus, thus helping to protect others.

"Their use is therefore one way in which we can evidence protection for the most vulnerable, support for our health workers, and practical love for our neighbours."


Earlier in lockdown, innovations like drive-in services were used to facilitate parishioners


It comes after the Republic of Ireland announced on Tuesday it would be tightening restrictions following an increase in coronavirus cases.

Indoor gatherings - excluding shops, restaurants and other businesses - are to be restricted to six people.

Religious services have been exempted from this and are allowed to have up to 50 attendees.

In Northern Ireland, religious services have been allowed since the end of June, with the two-metre social distancing rule limiting the number of attendees.

On Wednesday, Health Minister Robin Swann said he would be recommending Covid-19 restrictions to the executive when it meets on Thursday, although it is unclear if church services will be affected.

Exemptions


In Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, there are a number of reasons a person can be exempt from wearing a face covering.

These include having a physical or mental impairment which means you cannot put one on; if wearing one will cause you severe distress; and if you are travelling with someone who needs to lip read.

A person is not required to provide proof they are exempt from wearing a face covering.

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