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Free Covid-19 tests for religious leaders in Abu Dhabi

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi
ashwani@khaleejtimes.com Filed on September 26, 2020
Free, Covid19 tests, religious leaders, Abu Dhabi

(Reuters)

The test fee exemption comes as part of the reopening guidelines set for places of worship in Abu Dhabi.

Religious leaders in Abu Dhabi will now be able to take Covid-19 tests for free, local authorities announced on Friday.

The test fee exemption comes as part of the reopening guidelines set for places of worship in the Capital, the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said in a tweet.

"The Department of Community Development (DCD) is exempting religious leaders in Abu Dhabi from Covid-19 test fees in order to support places of worship in implementing precautionary measures to protect the community's health and safety," it tweeted.

Mosques started welcoming back the faithful in July, while churches and all other non-Muslim places of worship in Abu Dhabi reopened in September, with strict safety measures in place.

The DCD reiterated that all places of worship should accommodate only up to 30 per cent of its capacity.

Both worshippers and staff members were also reminded to stick to the precautions set to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Masks are mandatory and social distancing must be observed.

A 'Gradual Return Back to Life' guide has been issued by the DCD including procedures to be followed by the worshippers and staff, in terms of the entry and exit of worshipers according to the permissible capacity, and other precautionary measures.

St Joseph's Cathedral, the seat of the Apostolic Vicar of Southern Arabia, was one of the first non-Muslim places of worship to reopen in Abu Dhabi on July 20. The three facilities inside the premises: St Joseph's Cathedral, St Therese Church and the parish hall welcomed the faithful with maximum 30 per cent capacity. The worshippers have to book online appointments to attend mass. Also, from last month onwards, children and elderly, who don't suffer from any chronic illnesses, were also allowed to attend the services in the churches. Lauding the decision of the free Covid test for religious leaders, Father Johnson Kadukanmakal, Parish Priest, St Joseph's Cathedral Abu Dhabi, praised the support offered by the local authorities to the places of worship in implementing precautionary measures.

"Our faith plays an important role in helping us weather the challenges of the pandemic. At the same time, providing a safe environment for worshippers remains our priority. We are grateful to the UAE Government and especially the Department of Community Development for all the many gestures of solidarity and support being provided to the community of worshippers in Abu Dhabi."

At St Joseph's Catholic and St Andrew's Anglican churches in Abu Dhabi, worshippers must first register online to reserve a place using their Emirates ID. Once they receive confirmation on e-mail, they are allowed to attend the mass service. They are also encouraged to download the government's Al Hosn tracing app before coming to the church.

Rev. Babu P. Kulathackal, Vicar, Abu Dhabi Marthoma Church, noted the efficient measures taken by the DCD for conducting Covid-19 testing.

"The DCD officials will fix an appointment for the test and inform us. I have done two tests so far at the drive-through centres. It has been a good experience."

Welcoming the free Covid-test news, Rev. Sojee V. John, Vicar, CSI Parish Abu Dhabi, said: "The DCD has been very supportive. We appreciate their love and concern. They have always guided us during this pandemic. They inquire about our needs and provide help. I have done one test at the drive-through and another one at my residence."

Some of the precautions taken by places of worship include limiting the prayer service time to maximum one hour, and seeing to it that worshippers remain two metres apart from one another.

ashwani@khaleejtimes.com 

author

Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do what’s right and stand by what I believe in.


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