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Pastor Clive Dottin

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Religious leaders are calling for leniency from the government, when the prime minister pronounces on COVID-19 restrictions this weekend.

Religious gatherings have been subject to no more than 10 people under the Public Health Regulations.

However, religious leaders say the downward trend in cases should be cause for some relaxation of the current measures.

“I think the time has come,” Seventh Day Adventist pastor Clive Dottin told Guardian Media.

“There is an absence of hope in society. A lot of people are frustrated. A lot of people have lost faith in God and I think now is the best time to do it.”

General Secretary of the Anjuman Sunnat ul Jamaat Association (ASJA) Rahimool Hosein also believed it was time for some level of concession to be given to religious organisations.

“It is our expectation that these restrictions, especially that has to do with places of worship – especially our masjids – we are hoping that they would be lifted. We don’t mind if we have to go with the full opening of the masjids but at least a middle ground,” he told Guardian Media.

He suggests that at a minimum, they be allowed to conduct their Friday prayers which is mandatory and can only be performed at the mosque with the lead of an Imam.

“We are hoping that at least that we would be granted that concession.”

For other religious sects, such as Hindus, the ability to host public worship and celebrations is on the minds of many as one of their most auspicious events, Divali, approaches.

Head of SWAHA International, pundit Hardeo Persad said while he believes Hindus would be grateful to be able to celebrate the holiday with relaxed measures, it cannot return to what it used to be.

“A lot of people would be looking forward to the national celebrations so I have some reservations of people having that control if we have open Divali celebrations – whether they would maintain the protocols. We can have celebrations at temples but public celebrations, I feel we would have to be very careful with that,” he said.

If given leniency, he said celebrations should be downsized and strict adherence to protocols maintained.

All the religious officials agreed that the guidelines for places of worship would be strictly adhered to and would be sufficient to protect them.