This Sunday (25 April) marks Palm Sunday, and most Greek Australians are eager to feel the real spirit of Holy Week with all the traditions and customs it entails, especially following last year’s Easter with televised services due to the global pandemic.

Victoria’s government released a document offering general public health advice for COVIDSafe celebrations during Orthodox Holy Week.

Venue restrictions

Depending on where gatherings for Orthodox Holy Week celebrations are held, different restrictions will apply. Venues must follow the restrictions in the Restricted Activity Directions which includes preparing a COVIDSafe Plan.

Gatherings for Orthodox Holy Week in which the number of attendees exceeds the number allowed under the venue’s density quotient must be considered under the Public Events Framework.

Lower risk events (Tier 3) may proceed without government approval if they are registered and have a COVIDSafe Event Checklist. Any event that has more than 5000 participants and exceeds the capacity limit for the venue must apply for and receive Victorian Government approval.

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Infection prevention

Important things to remember:
• people must not attend gatherings at churches or other venues if they are unwell
• hand hygiene needs to be practiced before entering and leaving any area with hand sanitiser available for attendees
• if there is large number of people, the service should be held outdoors if possible
• airflow of indoor spaces should be enhanced by opening doors and windows
• density quotients should be adhered to as per the requirements of the venue – this is one person per two square metres for churches and most other venues (for example, if an outdoor space is eight metres long and one metre wide, its total area is eight square metres, so no more than four people would be permitted in the space at a time)
• physical distancing of 1.5 metres between non-household members should be adhered to
• families and household members should sit together as much as possible
• separate entry and exit points for attendees entering and exiting the church or venue need to be kept
• high-touchpoint surfaces need to be cleaned regularly – at least twice daily or immediately if groups are moving in and out of an area or when visibly soiled
• there needs to be no sharing of food, drink, crockery, utensils, vessels or other equipment during ceremonies, this includes for holy communion.

READ MORE: One Christian faith, two Easters: the search for religious unity

All church venues must use the free Victorian Government QR Code Service or the Victorian Government Application Programming Interface-linked digital system record keeping (venues will have a 28-day compliance amnesty to 23 April 2021).

For religious ceremonies of any kind, the rules for Holy Week need to apply, and churches are encouraged to consider outdoor ceremonies where possible.

There are special rules for outdoor processions, such as for the Good Friday Epitaph procession, with 200 people allowed at any public place at any one time.