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COVID-19: Ondo govt lifts partial ban on religious activities

The Ondo State government, on Wednesday, lifted a partial ban on religious gatherings and activities in the state, just as it announced the death of the second casualty of COVID-19 in the state.

Disclosing this during a press briefing in Akure, Ondo state capital, the state governor, Mr Rotimi Akeredolu, said the decision to open worship centers was taken after wide review and consultations with religious leaders and other stakeholders in the state.

Akeredolu who explained that all religious activities and gathering should be guided and syndicated noted that if it is carefully managed, a casualty on account of such gatherings can be avoided.

He stated that churches will only operate on Sunday, while mosques will also be opened only on Friday and said “I hereby direct the resumption of guided and syndicated religious activities throughout the state. The implementation of this resumption of activities will be gradual and systematic”

He said “As agreed with religious leaders, in specific terms, worship centers are to commence their main activities with effect from this Friday.

“However, such approvals are not blanket and without restrictions, rather they are to be guided by the general response protocols on COVID-19 nationally”

He listed the conditions to include “weekly Friday Jumat services and Sunday Church services will commence in the first instance. Other daily programmes within the week are not yet approved for take-off.

“Religious leaders and administrators must ensure strict compliance with the social and physical distancing in the places of worship.

“In the case of churches, not more than three people are expected to sit on a pew while the equivalent applies to the sitting positions in the mosques and other worship centres as well.

“Water and soap must be provided at all entries into the centres or halls of worship 2hile all worshipers must be made to wash their hands in the standard pattern approved and practised since the beginning of the pandemic.

“Hand sanitizers must be provided and used by each worshipper at every entry point to the centres and at other convenient points within the premises and all worshippers and workers inside the centres and within the premises must wear face masks properly for the duration of the service

“Churches, Mosques and other religious centres must regularly decontaminate and sanitise the premises, facilities and equipment before and after the services.”

The governor threatened to immediately close down any Church, Mosque or worship centre which fails to obey the guidelines.

The governor disclosed that the state has recorded 24 cases of COVID -19 with 19 of the cases successfully treated and discharged, two deaths recorded, while three are still on admission, receiving treatment.

Akeredolu revealed that among the additional four cases recorded in the last ten days, “only one was a case of interstate importation. It was a case of an individual of northern Nigeria extraction who travelled from Sokoto state to Ondo state. The second, third and fourth cases were those of community transmission.

He explained that the fourth case was presented to the General Hospital Igbara Oke as a regular patient of flu, fever, cough and other symptoms similar to those of COVID-19, but died the same night he was brought to the hospital, while his sample was taken after being confirmed dead and the result came back positive.

The governor noted that the greatest threat to government efforts is the poor response to the protocols meant to prevent the spread of the Virus, saying “this has been the cause for the avoidable community transmission of the pandemic.

“This infection which takes the form of inter-state importation and local inter-personal transmission ensures that the only option left for us is to be vigilant about human and vehicular trans-border transportation. Without doubt, it also leaves us with the option to increase our compliance with the established standard response protocols to this Pandemic”

He assured that the Ondo state government will continue to attach great importance to its incremental efforts at protecting the people of the state from COVID-19.

“It is regrettable that the response of our people leaves much more to be desired. In terms of community ownership of the preventive measures as well as compliance to established protocols, our people are daily demonstrating half measures which are evidently not good enough.

“We cannot fight COVID-19 on our own terms and conditions. We cannot win this war in a manner considered favourable to individuals.

“We cannot live our lives pleasurably as before and hope that COVID – 19 will go away on its own accord. We must sacrifice and dedicate ourselves to the approved measures to save our own lives and those of our loved ones”

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