Cabinet of Ministers approved the procedure of attending churches after easing the quarantine restrictions
The government has formulated more detailed restrictions on mass religious events during adaptive quarantine and also provided for the possibility of their easing in case the COVID-19 epidemic.
The updated quarantine restrictions were approved by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on Wednesday, May 20, 2020. However, the amendments will take effect after the official publication of the decree, scheduled for Thursday, May 21, according to the Institute for Religious Freedom.
Now the government decree explicitly states that only the mass activities attended by more than 10 people are prohibited. In other words, no restrictions are effective for religious events with less than 10 attendees. At the same time, there is still a requirement to wear a respirator or protective mask (including self-made ones) in buildings and public transport.
Such requirements for public religious events were in place almost from the beginning of the quarantine – according to the agreement of the AUCCRO with the leadership of the National Police on the procedure for applying the previous version of the government decree. At the same time, the government has now allowed local authorities to decide on easing restrictive measures if the epidemiological situation improves.
According to the decree of the Cabinet of Ministers, the weakening of anti-epidemic measures in certain regions is applied and terminated based on the decision of the regional Commission on technogenic and environmental safety and emergencies. In other words, the local authorities have got more opportunities to ease the quarantine, depending on the situation in the region.
In regions where anti-epidemic measures are being eased, it is allowed starting from May 22 ... to hold religious events, with no more than one person resent per 10 meters square area where the religious event is held.
However, this wording of the government decree causes several comments from experts of the Institute for Religious Freedom:
- Can it be the case that the restrictions on participation in religious events of no more than one person per 10 sq. m. become even more severe than the currently allowed number of up to 10 people in places of religious events (especially for small churches)?
- Does such a strict restriction of religious events correspond to the principle of proportionality and expediency of maintaining at a time when the Cabinet of Ministers allows by the same decree the resumption of public transport and metro from May 25, where the crowd will be much denser than in churches?
As reported, AUCCRO believes that a sufficient measure to prevent the accumulation of people will be the presence in the room of no more than 1 person per 5 sq. m. area of the place of worship or rite. Two weeks ago, AUCCRO submitted its proposals to the Prime Minister of Ukraine on the application of adaptive quarantine for religious organizations.
In a comment for the IRF, Senior Bishop of the Ukrainian Church of Evangelical Christians Mykhailo Panochko explained the position of the AUCCRO and the expectations of the faithful regarding the actions of the authorities:
"We have been and remain open to honest communication at the national level, realizing that no government has ever worked in such conditions. We hope that the positive experience of other countries concerning churches and religious organizations can be applied in Ukraine as well."
The Council of Churches also suggested that the government should not prohibit worship services and religious rites outside religious buildings in the open air, as well as private events (weddings, baptisms, funerals, etc.), provided that measures are taken to prevent crowding of people.
Also, the AUCCRO considers it inappropriate to extend the requirement of mandatory self-isolation for persons who have reached the age of 60 to clergymen and persons involved in the organization of services, as well as to other working persons of retirement age. This requirement is still present in the resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 211 of March 11, 2020, despite the easing of the quarantine.