IRO calls for social distancing for 7 weeks

…as GHDS urges caution during Navratri observance

The Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) of Guyana is calling on various religious leaders and stakeholders to practise social distancing for the next seven weeks in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 
This call was made following the advice of the Board of the National Commission for Non-Communicable Diseases on which the IRO is represented.
In a statement on Wednesday, the IRO said that this civil call was to all leaders and stakeholders of various religious beliefs to practise social distancing for the next seven weeks.
“This matter should be given serious consideration, since persons with the NCDs such as hypertension, diabetes, etc, are very much at risk,” the religious body noted.
Meanwhile, the IRO went on to extend its support for calls already made by the Guyana Hindu Dharmic Sabha (GHDS), which has urged worshippers and mandirs not to have large gatherings during the current sacred Hindu festival of Navratri (nine nights of worshipping Mother Durga and her incarnations which started on Tuesday, March 24, 2020). GHDS President, Dr Vindhya Persaud has also advised social distancing or that worshippers stay at least six feet away from each other in mandirs. This is among a list of pertinent guidelines outlined by Dr Persaud for persons to protect themselves and prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus.
“Mandirs may be open all day into early evening for devotees to pay their individual obeisance and avoid congestion and crowding. Elderly persons over 60 years old and those with illnesses like diabetes should avoid attending mandirs as they are particularly high risk for contracting and developing severe complications of the coronavirus. Persons who are sick and coughing should not attend. Surfaces, puja items and other objects must be continuously and scrupulously cleaned as contaminated surfaces can transmit the coronavirus,” she noted.
Dr Persaud further advised that mandirs have sanitisers, and soap and water available for worshippers to wash their hands before and after entering the mandir.
She also urged mandirs on the East Coast of Demerara (ECD) to be especially cautious as all of the confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus are from the East Coast corridor hence the risk of exposure to infected or exposed persons was particularly high.
However, the GHDS President noted that although this pandemic has imposed some restrictions and limitations on worshipping during this Navratri period, it should not prevent Hindus from praying, fasting and observing this sacred period with devotion and faith.
To this end, Dr Persaud suggested that pandits and mandirs broadcast pujas and satsangs live on Facebook at pre-advertised times so that devotees can join in from home. “The collective vibrations across the country, throughout the period, will be powerful, healing and transformative. Persons are also encouraged to sit with their families or alone at home and perform pujas, chant or sing bhajans; fasting and offering prasadam is also appropriate during this period,” she posited.
For its part, the GHDS has been sharing prayers, bhajans, pujas, messages from the scriptures and more on its Facebook page for those practising social distancing.
According to the IRO, in its release on Wednesday, the same should be extended for all gatherings of any kind during this time.