Places of worship slowly reopen as N.S. COVID-19 restrictions ease
SYDNEY, N.S. -- As COVID-19 restrictions ease in Nova Scotia, gatherings of up to 50 people are permitted – prompting places of worship to make preparations to reopen. While congregations will still have to physically distance, their excitement to reunite and give praise can't be contained.
The Baitul Hafeez Mosque, located just outside of Sydney, N.S., has been closed since COVID-19 arrived in Nova Scotia over three months ago. However, with restrictions slowly easing, the mosque is looking forward to welcoming people back for prayers soon.
"We are ready to open," says Mubashir Ahmad Badar of the Baitul Hafeez Mosque. "We have all of our instructions; we are just waiting for the instructions from the government. As soon as we get them, we're going to open the mosque."
Although the number of people who worship at the mosque is small – typically less than ten people at a time – precautions will be implemented before reopening.
"Clean the knobs and prayer area – sanitize it," says Badar of the measures the mosque will take. "Everyone brings their own mat, for the prayers."
At a synagogue in Sydney, it's the second week back for the congregation since services reopened.
"We're such a tiny community that it's sometimes hard to get ten people," says congregation member, Barrie Carnat. "But suddenly, when we started, we had to say 'oh no, we can only have ten,' now, of course, we're allowed more."
With gatherings of up to 50 people now allowed in the province, Bishop Wayne Kirkpatrick of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Antigonish said in a news release on Thursday that churches may reopen for public worship in a few weeks time. However, reopening can only happen if churches follow forthcoming diocesan protocols for cleaning and disinfecting, as well as ensuring physical distancing.
Meanwhile, those at the synagogue on Saturday were thrilled to return.
"It's so good to be back," says congregation member, Bethsheila Kent. "It was really very difficult this winter when we weren't able to meet. This is a very, very important point for us to be able to meet every Shabbat and lift our voices to God."
Despite no new COVID-19 cases being announced in Nova Scotia within 11 days, Badar notes he expects some members of the mosque will continue to pray at home; however, returning members are eager to do so.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, talks concerning safe reopening were held between officials from the Diocese of Antigonish and parish priests, and are expected to continue on Sunday.