Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – The Religious Affairs Ministry has issued new guidelines for houses of worship, which are set to reopen soon as part of the so-called "new normal" after being closed for weeks due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
In a circular issued on Friday, Religious Affairs Minister Fachrul Razi said the new guidelines were in response to people's desire to pray at their respective houses of worship. The guidelines would still comply with prevailing health procedures to minimize the risk of COVID-19 transmission.
"Houses of worship must set the best example on curbing the spread of COVID-19," Fachrul said.
The circular states that houses of worship may only reopen if the COVID-19 basic reproduction number, R0 or R-naught, as well as its effective reproduction number, Rt, in their respective areas are below a certain threshold.
Houses of worship that want to reopen must obtain a letter confirming that the area is "safe from COVID-19" from their local COVID-19 task force.
The letter may be revoked if new COVID-19 cases are found in the area surrounding the house of worship or if the house of worship is found to have violated the guidelines.
Large houses of worship that regularly receive visitors from other regions may request special permission from their respective regional heads.
The circular also requires the implementation of rigorous health procedures, including the deployment of special personnel in charge of monitoring physical distancing and the installation of sanitation facilities at the entrances and exits of all houses of worship.
In addition, building managers are required to track the number of visitors at any given time to ensure physical distancing measures are adhered to.
"Children and elderly individuals who are vulnerable to diseases should be forbidden from praying at houses of worship," the circular reads.
The circular also states that, in the case of special public events held at houses of worship, such as weddings, building managers are required to limit the number of visitors to no more than 30 people, or 20 percent of the building's capacity. In addition, all attendees must test negative for COVID-19.
Indonesians have turned to virtual congregations in recent months with houses of worship temporarily closed. However, the outbreak has not stopped many mosques from hosting congregational prayers, including mass Idul Fitri prayers.
According to the official government count, Indonesia had at least 26,473 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 1,613 deaths as of Sunday.