In a move to ensure that physical distancing is respected once coronavirus controls are eased 'shortly', the Roman Catholic Church in Rwanda is considering strict rules to ensure that members will sit apart.
This would be possible with the removal of chairs and the suspension of the “sign of the peace” by hug or handshake, according to an authoritative source Sunday.
Rwanda announced an initial two-week lockdown on March 21 at the onset of the coronavirus outbreak, which was extended twice until April 30.
On 1st June, the partial lockdown relaxing steps were announced where public and private businesses have been allowed to resume work with essential staff while other employees continue working from home.
With ongoing relaxing measures, places of worship, religious wedding ceremonies as well as meetings and conferences in hotels are some of the services that have been selected to resume as the country continues to slowly reopen its economy.
According to one of the resolutions from Cabinet's meeting chaired by President Paul Kagame earlier this month, religious wedding ceremonies will resume but should not exceed 30 persons.
In addition, places of worship will remain closed but in the meantime investment in COVID-19 precautionary and preventive measures is encouraged to allow readiness for reopening in 15 days upon an epidemiological assessment which is set to expire on 2 July.
Earlier last week, Rwanda's Catholic bishop Philippe Rukamba suggested that worshippers should start receiving communion using a spoon due to the coronavirus threat.
Traditionally, practice of Communion on the tongue or in the hand is custom to each worshipper, but under new instructions, the rite allows the faithful to receive Communion in the hand to avoid exposure to coronavirus.
In addition, the holy water which is often kept in a font placed in the entrance of the church for anyone who would like to partake of it or to take some of it home will no longer be available for all church services across all parishes.
Instead of shaking hands during the sign of peace, members of the congregation are being asked simply to wave at the person sitting next to them, the Catholic Church said.
As of Sunday, Rwanda's s coronavirus (COVID-19) tally climbed to 900 following 22 new infections out of 3,002 tests conducted between Saturday and Sunday.