FAITH leaders from Bradford have revealed how the district’s places of worship have adapted to the ‘new normal’ since their re-openings.

In early July, places of worship were given the government go-ahead to re-open, albeit with measures in place - including reduced capacities and strict social distancing rules - in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

The district's churches, mosques and temples have since welcomed worshippers back, with the virus being taken "extremely seriously", according to local faith leaders.

Karen Kaur, Chair of Trustees at Bradford’s Guru Gobind Singh Gurdwara, and Ajit Singh Gill, President of the gurdwara, say the ‘new normal’ is “frustrating”, but also “necessary”.

“We have limited capacity to 30 people, we have a one-way traffic system and volunteers carry out track and trace, while also cleaning up and wiping down regularly”, they say.

“We have a very understanding congregation and they all wear face coverings, but on the off chance someone forgets theirs, we do provide them.

“There are no longer any live prayers or chanting, due to the increased rate of infection in Bradford, but when we first re-opened, we had prayers read from behind a screen for a short while.

“It is all quite frustrating, but it is necessary. Everyone says they feel really safe and our community is very understanding.

“I think this could all be a long-term thing, but we are prepared for that.”

When the school summer holidays started in July, out-of-school settings - including religious schools - were also allowed to re-open, as long as they had procedures in place to control the virus.

Mohammed Zubair is a teacher and administrator at the Masjid Quba madrassa in Manningham, and earlier this month, he explained: “We have staggered entry times, so we don’t all come in and leave at the same time, and staff clean and wipe down every classroom before we leave for the day.

“The kids sanitise their hands before they come in, and it is mandatory to wear a mask in the corridors”, Mr Zubair, who works for the Department of Education in his full-time job, added.

“Mosques have been taking this extremely seriously and adhering to all government guidelines.”

Hafeez Aziz, of the Al-Mustafa Centre in Girlington, also said: “Everyone understands how serious the situation is”, adding that the madrassa has received “a great response from students and parents” since re-opening in August.

“There is a screen at the teachers’ desks, and all teachers wear masks or visors, while we also have hand sanitiser for everyone on entry”, he said.

“Students leave one at a time, people bring their own prayer mats and we make sure social distancing is in place.”

Reverend Nathan Javed, of Grace Baptist Churches, claims that all the “necessary measures” have been implemented by places of worship across the district.

“All the things which need to be done are being done”, he says.

“Face coverings, hand sanitiser and the track and trace system are all being used, as well as two-metre distancing."

Reverend Nathan believes that places of worship have been affected by the virus in the same ways in which most other sections of society also have been.

“It’s like anywhere, we have all been affected to some degree”, he says.

“Things are tough, people’s mental health and anxieties are high, people are downcast and people have financial worries, too.

“It’s really important to keep ourselves safe, I’m longing to see some of my family members again, but we have to be careful.”

Javed Bashir, Safeguarding Consultant with Bradford-based Strengthening Faith Institutions (SFI), has supported places of worship with their re-openings, including with risk assessments and training in infection prevention and control.

"Places of worship in Bradford have been very cautious in dealing with COVID-19 and have gone beyond their normal duty to make sure everyone is safe", he said.

"It's been very difficult for places of worship as many of their rituals, including funerals and religious festivals, have had to change.

"SFI has provided them with the relevant support to carry out risk assessments and delivered COVID-19 compliance training.

"We have given the right support and guidance over the last six months and will continue to do so."