Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has said while places of worship may be eager to reopen their doors, these places posed unique challenges when it came to preventing the spread of the covid19 virus.
He said the people attending places of worship, including churches, mosques and mandirs, tend to be 50 and over, a demographic which is at particularly high risk for dying from covid19.
“It is the elderly who make up the bulk of the followers of religion that go to places of congregation, and all the evidence around the world, including our eight deaths in TT, show that deaths have mainly come from the elderly population.
That is what keeps me up at night, thinking about how do we open up places of religion, because it just takes one person in a religious setting, where you have people with comorbidities like diabetes, hypertension, cancers, whose immune systems would not allow them to fight off the covid19 virus.”
CMO Dr Roshan Parasram said the elderly can be protected through guidelines.
He said the WHO has published guidelines for places of worship and mass gatherings, and TT needed to get to a stage where these recommendations are known and practised well.
He said currently the ministry was sticking to the recommendations of gatherings of five or less, as stated in the public health regulations.
Reopening places of worship, he said, will be considered at a later time once health experts are able to determine how the WHO guidelines can be rolled out so everyone could be protected.
National Security Minister Stuart Young said the Cabinet-appointed team determining how the reopening would take place was aware that churches felt there is a need to allow them to get back to their congregations.
He said the team was looking at international cases like South Korea where covid19 had been spread through churches, as well as what precautions had been taken in Italy, where churches had recently been allowed to reopen. He told worshippers of different faiths that the issue would be looked at and addressed.