Students in face masks have their temperature taken on arrival at their school in Phnom Penh on Sept. 7 as schools reopened across the country amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (Photo: AFP)
Cambodia’s churches have reopened after being closed for six months due to the coronavirus pandemic, but health officials say strict guidelines will still apply.
“Christian gatherings must adhere to the health guidelines, including the wearing of face masks, having temperature checks before entry, following the 1.5-meter social distancing rule, washing hands regularly as well as carrying sanitizers,” the Health Ministry said in a statement.
Schools are also gradually reopening.
Cambodia has not been hit as hard by the pandemic as other countries, which has baffled doctors, with just 275 cases confirmed. All but one has recovered and there have been no deaths.
Some 10,438 people have been tested for Covid-19 in the kingdom since the first case was reported on Jan. 27. Its latest case, reported on Sept. 13, was the first in almost two weeks.
However, land borders remain closed and access by international flights is heavily restricted amid quarantine measures and self-isolation for inbound passengers.
Churches have worked closely with the Cambodian government in combating the disease.
In March, the Apostolic Vicariate of Phnom Penh instructed followers that all activities of the pastoral center should stop and precautions should be taken in dealing with those coming from virus-hit countries.
Masses and daily rosary prayers have been held live on Facebook and YouTube.
“Our social communications service is always on the warpath to allow those who can take advantage of internet services to remain in communion in our community since only three or four people can physically gather for the Eucharist,” Phnom Penh's Bishop Olivier Schmitthaeusler said earlier this year.
The reopening of regular church services was welcomed, although Masses and other religious gatherings are only allowed for half an hour. Children and sick people were being advised not to attend services.
“It is a bit difficult to follow these guidelines as in a normal ceremony the church leader will normally preach for about 30 minutes,” Run Mony, of the Christian Fellowship Church of Cambodia, told the Khmer Times.
“The Christian Fellowship Church of Cambodia strictly complies with these health measures and a religious gathering only amounts to a total of 20 people.”
Sath Theara, a member of the Khos Koal Church committee, said it was difficult to develop a close bond and build relationships with other parishioners when restricted to online services.
“When we practiced online worship, we seem to have lost that close connection between members of our community. Our community was delighted to hear that we can resume religious gatherings and we are extremely happy to once again begin services,” she said.