Quebec permits locations of worship to reopen, with strict gathering restrict

Houses of worship in Quebec are now allowed to reopen, but with strict limits on the number of people that can show up.

Two weeks into the province’s latest round of restrictions, which include an overnight curfew, the government has changed course. It is now possible for a place of worship to host a maximum of 10 people for religious gatherings.

All places of worship were ordered to close earlier this month, except for funeral ceremonies.

The changes come by way of a government decree published on Thursday, and provide exceptions to public health rules put into place Jan. 9, which ban all gatherings — indoors and outdoors — across Quebec.

The Health Ministry says it is “sensitive to the preservation of freedom of worship, as well as the psychological and moral well-being” of people who practice religion.

“By limiting the number to 10 people, it allows people to continue practicing their religious rites in a secure space, because with 10 people, social distancing can easily be respected,” said a spokesperson with the province’s Health Ministry.

The rules may have been softened, but religious community leaders are expected to show “exemplary rigour” and encourage their members to respect physical standing rules, wear masks, wash their hands when entering and exiting the building, and refrain from singing, the spokesperson said .

A registry of the people who attend ceremonies will also be mandatory, in order to help trace them in the event of an outbreak.

The decree maintains the maximum size of gatherings for funerals at 25 people.

“Places of worship cannot serve as a refuge,” the Health Ministry spokesperson said. “However, if a person needs to get in touch with a representative of a place of worship to find support or comfort, it will be allowed to do so inside the place of worship, outside of the usual ceremonies.”

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