The Secretary to the Prime Minister Dr. Jimmy Rogers said that it is wrong to compare the restriction on Church Services to Casinos.

He made the remark during a talkback show over the weekend, hosted by the national broadcaster, SIBC.

The government has been heavily criticized when it passed orders (Covid-19) (Honiara Emergency Zone Orders No. 2 of 2022) to close all churches within the Honiara Emergency Zone but exempted Casinos.

The most vocal critic of the order was the Leader of the official opposition and Member of Parliament for Aoke/Langa Langa, Honorable Mathew Wale.

Following the order, Mr. Wale expressed horror over the government’s decision, saying that while he is not encouraging churches to gather at this time, he is questioning the wisdom of casinos being permitted to open, who, in his view, pose the same level of risk.

In response to this concern, Mr. Rogers said the Oversight Committee is soon to issue national guidelines for the recommencement of church services.

“These guidelines will apply to all communities where there is community transmission of Covid-19.

“However, communities that are yet to register community transmission can continue with normal services,” Dr. Rogers said.

He further stressed that as a matter of fact, communities in Rennell/Bellona and Temotu Provinces can continue with normal church services because they are still free of Covid-19.

“For parts of Western Province that are yet to register Covid-19 cases they can continue with church services as usual. Basically the guidelines are meant for communities that have community transmission,” he said.

The SPM went on to say that Church Heads will be issued with the national guidelines in due course and it is anticipated that they pass them on to the smaller churches within their church groups.

Essentially the Oversight Committee will recommend as a rule that churches in community transmission areas open their doors only to those who are fully vaccinated.

“Secondly, the Committee recommends as a basic formula that the number of people to attend a church service is calculated at one person for four square meters,” the SPM stated.

He says that what this means in practice is that in churches with a holding capacity area of one hundred square meters, only twenty-five fully vaccinated people will be allowed in. He says churches must ensure that the congregation is seated two meters apart in all directions from each other.

However, a family that resides together under one roof can sit together in the church, still with two meters distance in all directions.

The Oversight Committee will also recommend that churches in Covid-19 affected areas place hand sanitizers at the entrances and exits for ease of use by members.

Dr. Rogers also stressed that a mask is mandatory in church and must be worn during the singing because the virus is likely to spread when the mouth is not covered.

He also went on to emphasize that holy communion must be received in separate glasses to avoid spreading the virus.