LONDON, UK—Government officials met with Sikh representatives on June 1 to discuss the safe reopening of Sikh Gurdwaras in the UK.
Pressure has been growing on the UK Government to provide a clear stance in order for Gurdwaras to continue to serve the community with much needed support. There has also been widespread discontent regarding representation of the Sikh community to the Government, with various organisations voicing their concerns and frustrations at the inadequate attempts by the Government to engage with the correct Sikh reps.
Approximately 17 politicians and faith representatives attended the meeting. The Sikh representatives included Paramjit Kaur Matharu the Sikh Assembly CEO; Jagtar Singh from Sikh Assembly; Bhai Mohinder Singh from Guru Nanak Nishkam Sevak Jatha; Ranbir Singh; Dr Shaminder Singh Marway; Gurmail Singh Malhi from NGAG; Avtar Singh; self proclaimed Sikh representative Rami Ranger; Gurmel Singh and UK Sikh MPs Tan Dhesi and Preet Gill.
Also on the call were Miriam Hodgson Deputy Director of Faith, Integration & Communities at Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG); Stephen Greenhalgh the Deputy Mayor of Policing and Crime in London; Uroosa Syed; Colin Bloom the Faith Advisor at MHCLG; C Tuner; Simi Ilupeju; Emma Scowcroft and Shakeel Qadar.
The meeting was called by the Faith Minister, Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, the Minister for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
In a statement issued by the National Gurdwara Advisory Group today confirmed the following:
- The Government will be issuing guidance with broad principles and templates for risk assessments. Gurdwaras will need to take into account their capacity for social distancing to provide safe access to their premises. This is to be done with regard to the size and layout of their sites.
- The Government had hoped for a partial opening of Gurdwaras by 1st June but this has not been possible. The situation will be reviewed by the middle of June with consideration for a soft opening for private prayers, a limited congregation, Anand Karaj (weddings) and Antam Sanskar (funerals).
- Guidelines are to be provided for the safety of the elderly, the vulnerable and those with serious health conditions.
- Guidance already produced by Community Organisations will be taken into account when producing official guidance.
- Issues regarding inappropriate PPE for Sikh doctors, specifically facial coverings, was raised and will be passed onto Public Health England.
- There was a lack of official information available on the impact of COVID-19 on the Sikh community.
- Issues regarding the impact of COVID-19 and the easing of the lockdown on mental health were raised. Specifically, issues surrounding the loneliness and isolation for the house bound and funerals.
- Grants for the charitable sector, including places of worship were available and Gurdwaras can apply for these grants.
- A Sikh representative for the government task force will be confirmed later today.
Funerals and prayer limited gatherings for those suffering.. be it physically or mental emotional wellbeing is important, but in a safe safeguarded methodical manner. Especially needs to be access for anyone suffering.. from abuse, depression due to lockdown. Children not at school, and only children especially, also have found this period very difficult. Ill individuals, or isolated too.
Hoping suitable guidelines are drawn soon.
More remote Gurdwaras have allowed individuals access purely for a few minutes peace of mind. Cities have huge numbers to host, and Gurdwaras need to think carefully. I did suggest by pre arranged time slots for limited visitors, booking in advance but that may seem somewhat too formal. A difficult one. May Gurus wisdom show the way to sevadars.