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A cleaner polishes the floor at the Cathederal of the Immaculate Conception, Independence Square, Port-of-Spain yesterday for today’s early mass which resumes after the lifting of restrictions by the Prime Minister on Saturday.

Mass will be celebrated at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception today for the first time in more than 70 days following the lifting of restrictions on churches. This was confirmed by Vicar General Fr Martin Sirju as he outlined the preparations that have been made since Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley announced on Saturday that places of worship can resume in-person services.

However, they are being limited to 50 per cent capacity and services kept for no more than an hour.

In preparation for the return of congregations this week, cleaning and other preparations have been taking place at the Roman Catholic Cathedral, the seat of the Port-of-Spain Archidiocese, over the last few days.

Fr Sirju said although the building has been closed for several weeks because it is not completely sealed off, dust and weather had left some areas in need of cleaning. However, all was in place for mass to be held there early this morning.

In another part of Port-of-Spain, at the Sacred Heart RC Church, mass was scheduled for midday.

Fr Sirju said although churches are not officially listed as essential services, they consider themselves to be just that. He said medical professionals are reporting that one in four persons are suffering some kind of mental distress due to the COVID-19 pandemic and churches provide some of the support they need at this time.

Fr Sirju said the easing of pandemic restrictions allows churches to get back to work.

National Bishop of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the West Indies (PAWI) Reverend Don Hamilton said in anticipation of the reopening of churches he had been preparing a message for leaders in his denomination on navigating through the current pandemic arrangements and that might be anticipated.

He admitted that many church leaders had breathed a sigh of relief at the Prime Minister’s announcement.

According to Rev Hamilton, some churches might continue to hold services online because they feel “it is more practical to remain with the technology.”

He said while there were a lot of churches that “were not into the technology” others had found that it gave them access to a wider audience.

Reflecting on the new normal for places of worship, he said: “The task of the church is to keep the incarnational touch while using the technology.

Rev Hamilton PAWI churches will be guided by a checklist of COVID-19 measures which had been developed with guidance from professionals.

33 new cases

Meanwhile T&T recorded 33 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday. The new cases took the number of confirmed cases in T&T up to 5,568. Active cases now stand at 1,276. A total of 106 people have died from the virus.