Bahamas Christian Council (BCC) President Bishop Delton Fernander yesterday said he hopes churches will be allowed to resume in-person services next week.
His comments came after Prime Minister Dr. Hubert Minnis announced plans to ease COVID-19 restrictions next week.
Minnis said the new measures, which include the reopening of many non-essential businesses, public parks and beaches, will begin on Monday, so long as recommendations from health officials do not change. However, it is unclear whether there will be any changes to the way churches operate as the new emergency orders were not released up to last night.
Fernander said he hopes churches on New Providence will be allowed to reopen. He said that given the most recent health data showed no cases were linked to church services, the hard work of the council and churches should be recognized.
“We hope to work closely with the competent authority so that in short order the churches will be able to resume at their 30 percent worship,” he said in an interview with The Nassau Guardian.
“And we hope to be included in the order next week, since there was a clear representation that there was zero infection in churches from the information…which we had worked very hard [for].
“I’m very glad that as a church, we had zero infections in the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.”
However, Fernander noted that given the high number of active cases, people must be careful.
“We would have heard, like the nation, the changes made to the orders and the desire that by Monday [there will be] the opening of the country,” he said.
“But given the numbers and the data that was presented, we believe and we support the change of direction.
“And we, as the Christian Council, also want the nation to still be aware of the need to be cautious.
“The numbers suggest that there is still a good portion of us that are infected. And so, as the church, we are going to be even more vigilant in what we put forward in terms of protocols for persons attending churches.”
In a statement from the Office of the Prime Minister on Monday, churches on all other islands were given permission to reopen in accordance with the Bahamas Christian Council’s guidelines.
Guidelines previously announced by the BCC, when The Bahamas attempted its first reopening in June, included pre-arranged seating in churches, hand sanitizer stations and the mandatory wearing of masks. The BCC also strongly discouraged those at high risk for severe COVID-19 symptoms from attending services, and urged them to stay at home.