Members of the public have questioned the criteria for the phased reopening of places of worship amid the Covid-19 pandemic, saying it is unfair to limit the number of worshippers per service to 100.
President Uhuru Kenyatta said on Monday that there must be strict conformity with all applicable guidelines, including those developed by the interfaith council.
In his speech to the nation on Monday, the President also said the services will last just one hour.
Christians and Muslims have celebrated the announcement to reopen the places of worship, saying their closure for three months negatively affected families and the public’s spiritual wellbeing.
But some argue that the restrictions will limit the freedom of worship.
South Mugirango MP Silvanus Osoro noted some can accommodate up to 2,000 people.
“The President’s speech was good, and as MPs we welcome it, but what is not clear is the issue of curfew and restricting the number of people who attend church services” he said.
He said the number should not be restricted but that anti-virus rules must be followed strictly.
North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko said, “What surprised me is restricting church services to 100 people. The number of people attending services should be guided by the size of the building.”
In Homa Bay, pentecostal church leaders said many will be denied the opportunity to meet for services.
Bishop Dominique Ochoo, County Director of the Kenya National Congress of Pentecostal Churches (KNCPC), said, “There are churches with many members who all want to worship. Restricting the number of worshipers to 100 will deny many people access to the church,” he lamented.
He added that most churches have services that run for more than two hours so faithful will be unable to “worship properly” in an hour.
“We are ready to follow all the guidelines set by the government to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. All pentecostal churches have agreed that their members will maintain social distance and only allow adults to worship. But we are requesting the President to loosen the restrictions further,” said Mr Ochoo.
In Vihiga, Agape Fellowship Center’s Presiding Bishop Evans Achanga also said the numbers of worshippers should depend on the sizes of premises.
Mr Achanga also asked the government to supply churches with thermo guns when they reopen in three weeks.
In Kakamega, however, Sheikh Abdallah Ateka, Chairman of the Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya welcomed the move wholeheartedly, saying precautions will be taken to protect worshippers in mosques.
In Siaya, Bondo ACK Diocese Bishop David Kodia said, “We are happy with the decision. It is a big relief to rural churches where congregations are never of high numbers. It is a step in the right direction even for urban churches that will have to stagger services,” he said.
In Kisumu County, Barack Okumu, the Lay Pastoral Council of ArchDiocese of Kisumu and Chairman of the Parish, termed the decision a positive gesture by the President.
“Most of our parishes had put safety measures in place anticipating the partial reopening. We want to take the President’s guidelines positively,'”said Mr Okumu.
He said the churches will have hand-washing facilities at the gates and ensure social distancing.
“We have set up a committee that will make sure the guidelines are followed,” he said.
“We are also going to get extra seats outside the church so that we space the Christians as much as possible. We shall make sure those coming in and going out don’t mingle. Anybody with symptoms of the coronavirus will not be allowed into the church.”
In Migori County, members of the clergy said churches are ready to comply with anti-virus regulations.
“We are really grateful to the President for allowing churches to reopen, even with the pandemic. We will not compromise,” said Pentecostal Evangelistic Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) Presiding Bishop John Okinda.
Benson Ayienda, Wycliffe Nyaberi, George Odiwuor, Derick Luvega, Benson Amadala, Elizabeth Ojina And Ian Byron.