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Members of the congregation pray during Mas at the Sacred Heart R.C. Church on Abercromby Street Port-of-Spiain, yesterday.

Bavita Gopaulchan

During the COVID-19 pandemic, religious groups say less people had been attending services.

However, now that there are no more restrictions on the number of people allowed at places of worship, several religious groups are hoping more people will attend.

Secretary-general of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, Vijay Maharaj, said despite places of worship being allowed to operate at 50 per cent capacity, there weren’t many people showing up.

“Our full capacity in temple is anywhere between 250 and 300 and we have not had that kind of numbers turning out obviously, and we will open, yes, but I do not foresee for the next month or two reaching that kind of capacity again,” Maharaj said.

Imam Imtiaz Ali, of Real Street ASJA Masjid, said he too made a similar observation.

“Some people are staying away for their own protection to not be exposed to anyone else so, yes, there has been a slight drop with the number of attendees,” Ali said.

The Presbyterian Church of T&T said its members have also noticed a reduction in its congregations.

Going forward, the organisation’s communications manager Michael Cooper Ochiengh noted that members intend to continue streaming religious ceremonies virtually.

“Certain churches may not open up on a case-by-case basis. If there are places of worship where persons are ill because of COVID, the necessary precautions will have to take place so they will continue with the virtual services and really going forward it will be a case of having both,” he said.

Ali said at his Masjid, vaccinated members are seated away from those who are unvaccinated.

Maharaj said while the relaxing of restrictions was a welcomed announcement, the SDMS is surprised by the timing of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley’s announcement.

“My concern is like a number of other persons we had this so-called, ‘Carnival experience’ last week Monday and Tuesday so I would have liked to have waited another couple of weeks before we went full steam ahead,” Maharaj said.

The religious groups said they will continue to do what is needed to encourage people to attend services physically without jeopardising the health and safety of their congregations.

Furthermore, Maharaj and Ali said they are hoping the pandemic continues to fade away so that members can, finally, celebrate larger religious festivals such as Ganesh Utsav, Divali and Eid ul Fitr.

The religious groups also expressed relief that the number of people permitted at graveside funeral services will be unrestricted. (BG)