By Dr Preethi Keerthi D’Souza
Jun 30: It’s a fact, we are living in the new normal. Everyone is taking that extra effort to see that we can collectively fight the pandemic COVID-19. Educating self and being cautious is the prime way to keep ourselves and our families safe during these vulnerable times.
While some people state that ‘life cannot be the same like before’ some have walked ahead and say, ‘this is the new normal and we need to carry on with life and our routine work’. But yes, safety cannot be compromised.
A gentle reminder, I would like to mention as to how COVID-19 spreads. Individuals catch COVID-19 from other people who have the virus. The disease spreads primarily from one person to another through small droplets from the nose or mouth, which are expelled when a person with COVID-19 coughs, sneezes or speaks. But we also need to know that these droplets are relatively heavy and so do not travel far and quickly sink to the ground. We can catch COVID-19 if we breathe in these droplets from a person infected with the virus. Hence it is mandatory to keep social distance of at least one meter from others. The droplets do land on the objects and surfaces. We can be infected by touching the surfaces and objects and then touching our eyes, nose or mouth. This is why it is very important to wash our hands regularly with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand rub. Wearing mask at all times when in near contact with people should never be compromised.
Many of us elders have started to resume work, businesses and other activities that are needed to economically support our families. Not everyone has the option of work from home, hence we do travel and carry on with our work at the workplace. Even when we are in the new normal, we cannot forget the basic safety needs that we must follow. At our workplaces, there are many safety measures that are followed. Remarkably, safety measures are followed at the places of worship too. In this article of mine I am not debating if going to the place of worship is needed in these times, because it has various view points, but I am going on to the next level as to what safety measures are taken at the place of worship.
At St Lawrence Church, Bondel, Mangaluru, India, many precautionary measures are taken in the new normal. The measures are taken as per the directions of the government and also as per the guidelines of the bishop of Mangalore diocese.
A COVID safety committee is formed in every church and at St Lawrence Church too, this committee puts in remarkable efforts to curb the pandemic. Many changes in the physical setting inside and outside the church are implemented.
Let me brief in sequence with the help of pictures, the changes that are implemented.
The resetting of furniture inside the church is done taking in mind the concept of social distancing. Safe distance is kept between each bench and a ribbon is tried in the middle to see that only two people are accommodated in a single bench at every point of time and the social distance between individuals is maintained during the entire Mass.
Complete cleaning of the church is done to maintain hygiene always. The COVID safety committee has made all the necessary arrangements with the help of the priests of the parish.
In the vicinity of the church, there are changes made to ensure safety of all. Every statue at the church is fenced to ensure that no one touches them and the spread of COVID is curbed.
Instructions are exhibited and every person is following these without exceptions. If anyone forgets to get a mask, the same are available in the church for a nominal price.
For the mass services, children below 10 and elders above 65 are discouraged to participate and only individuals who are healthy are encouraged to come. The procedure to enter the church is as follows.
Doors of the church of only one side are kept open so that no one can skip the process of entry. Every person needs to sanitise their hands first. Even hand wash facility is made available. Every person uses the equipment by pressing the pedal using their leg and the sanitiser is collected in their hands. Both the hands are sanitised by them.
The subsequent process is the scanning of temperature using infrared thermometer. If the temperature is above normal, then the person is requested not to attend mass and is requested to take rest at their residences. Only individuals who have a normal temperature can move to the next process.
Information of every person entering the church is recorded. Their name, place of residence and phone number is taken as a record for every Mass. This helps us to build a data if any need arises in the future.
Volunteers and youth of the church are involved in this selfless service and they help to make the process very smooth. Nearly four counters are in place for every Mass. This process is practices for all Masses on all days. Thus, the motto of prevention is better than cure is followed in the place of worship.
Every person has to wear the mask for the entire Mass ceremony and once a person occupies a place they are restricted to move around until the entire Mass is over.
One of the ceremonies where social distancing to be followed is difficult is the distribution of the Holy Communion. The following picture will tell you why the social distancing cannot be maintained in the real sense.
However, solution to the same is found out in an innovative way. It is said that a pessimist sees a difficulty in every opportunity and an optimist finds an opportunity in every difficulty. In the new normal, the priest or religious nuns bring the Holy Communion to every person at the place where they are sitting. This is like ‘A well filled with water comes all the way to the person who is thirsty’.
This innovative practice takes care of social distance being maintained at all times.
At the end of every Mass the doors of the other side of the church are opened and people leave one by one, following social distancing. After people have left the church premises, sanitisation of the entire church is done. This ensures that the church is ready for the next service and is completely sanitised.
Thus, this is the new normal at the place of worship. This process shall be continued and this may be the future practice for a long time to come. If corona has given us restrictions to participate in our religious practices, innovative ways are being figured out by individuals. However, time has to tell us what more is needed to be done to ensure the safety of every person in the society.
Let us have faith that the power of prayers work and COVID- 19 becomes a history soon.
Dr Preethi Keerthi D’Souza is an assistant professor in the department of Commerce, Mangalore University.