NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said places of worship will be asked to find alternatives to practices like group singing, sharing books and passing around the collection plate to reduce infection risks.
“Communal singing and chanting should not occur because of the high risk of transmission of the virus. Instead, measures such as one singer standing at least three metres away from others would be safer,” she said.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said extensive COVID-19 outbreaks in places of worship and among choirs overseas highlighted the importance of the government’s cautious approach to easing restrictions.
“Sadly, we have seen many congregations of different faiths and denominations affected by COVID-19 overseas,” he said.
Places of worship, mourning and nuptial celebrations will be expected to adhere to a checklist developed by NSW Health, Mr Hazzard said.
NSW Health has developed a checklist to help places of worship create a tailored COVID-19 safety plan that covers physical distancing measures, hygiene and cleaning protocols to ensure they can keep participants as safe as possible.
“It is also vital that people who are unwell stay at home,” Mr Hazzard said.
Since May 15, weddings have been limited to 10 guests excluding the couple, the person conducting the service, a photographer and videographer. Indoor funerals were limited to 20 mourners, outdoor funerals 30 and religious gatherings of 10 worshippers.
NSW’s daily tallies of confirmed cases has been in the low single digits for almost four weeks and daily testing rates have not dipped below 6000.
The results have buoyed the government’s cautious optimism that NSW is on track to continue relaxing restrictions.
On Thursday there was one new case reported – an overseas traveller in hotel quarantine, taking the total number of confirmed cases to 3090.
There are 79 COVID-19 patients being treated by NSW Health including one person in an intensive care unit on a ventilator.
A total of 2670 people have recovered from COVID-19, NSW Health said.
Kate Aubusson is Health Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.