Gathered in His name… but no more than ten at a time


If you have a dozen apostles you have some difficult decisions to make, says Toby Manhire in his blog in The Spinoff.

He was referring to the fact that under the restrictions imposed by COVID-19 Alert Level 2 the number of people attending a religious gathering is capped at 10.

Many religious leaders are disappointed that 100 people can gather in a restaurant or bar but not at a place of worship.

COVID-19 has forced weekly mass, prayers, and other religious services online.

But under alert level 2 faith leaders had hoped they would be able to open their doors once again.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops are among those disappointed at this decision.

“Like yourselves, we too are disappointed that we are not yet allowed to assemble in our churches in groups larger than 10 people, ” say the bishops in a letter sent on 12 May to parishioners, priests and parish leadership.

The letter notes that the Government will reconsider the limit of 10 people at religious services in two weeks.

It adds that the Catholic bishops have joined with the Anglican Church in asking the Government to look again with urgency at increasing that number.

Read the Bishops’ Letter

The Numbers Game

Since the establishment of the Alert Levels, the number permitted to gather in a closed space has varied.

On 16 March, the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern called for a halt to public gatherings of more than 500 people.

On 19 March, the Government required the cancellation of indoor gatherings of more than 100 people.

Under Alert Level 3 and 4 the maximum number was 10

At her press conference on 7 May Ardern said that on return to Alert Level 2 on 14 May the maximum number of attendees would be 100:

“Previously you’ll recall it was 500 for outdoors, but I think everyone can see that big events lead to risk, and that risk can mean big clusters.

I know this will affect many, but we have to keep working on getting things right so that we can get to a place where larger events are possible again. In the meantime, we are thinking about the extra support required for sectors that are impacted by this.

For managed events like weddings, music events, religious services, funerals – these can be held at Level 2 when we get there but with all the same public health guidance, and with the 100-person limit.”

At her press conference on 11 May, she said the number would be 10

“Gatherings at home, need to be capped at 10. Church and religious events, weddings, funerals, stag dos – all must be limited to 10 for now.

And why 10? Simple. If something goes wrong with a group of 10, that’s much easier to contain, much easier to contact trace, and much less likely that if something goes wrong that the whole country will have to experience more restrictions.”

On 13 May an exception was made for funerals and Tangihana allowing up to 50 people to attend.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand, Top Story.