CHURCHES resumed services illegally despite ban

By Manyuon Mayen Manyuon

Some churches in Juba have defied the coronavirus preventive measures put in place by the Ministry of Health to curb the spread of the virus.

In March, President Salva Kiir suspended all forms of social gathering including churches in a bit to curb the spread of the Coronavirus.

The lockdown was partially lifted that seeing Bars, markets and restaurants allowed to reopen in April. The directives did not apply for Churches and Mosques reopening.

On Sunday, congregations were seen attending church service in the various churches in Juba posing people at high risks of contracting Coronavirus.

One worshiper told Juba Monitor that they were told by their priest that churches were allowed to conduct prayers but with limited number of not more than 360 people.

In Some churches the congregation were not maintaining the preventive measures of social distancing and wearing of facemasks. Members could be seen greeting each other in the church compound.

Responding to the claim on Sunday during weekly press briefing, Dr. Thuou Loi, the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health clarified that churches and other public gatherings points have not been instructed to resume.

He said such gatherings were illegal as they have not been allowed to reopen by the National taskforce.

“At this stage, we have not told anybody that go back to normal, there is no any official communication from the Ministry of Health. If an individual has made a mistake of saying that we are back to normal, then that is an individual mistake, but as an institution, we did not talk of getting back to normal,” Dr. Loi said.

“Our position as Ministry of Health regarding crowds, churches and other events that bring crowds together, is still the same, social distancing is mandatory in fighting coronavirus and so at this stage, we are not yet saying it is back to normal, so it is mandatory that people keep social distancing,” he added.  

He said if they were functions whether in the Churches, Mosques, marriages or funerals then they were risky and the Ministry of Health has not instructed them to resume.

He said the Health Ministry and WHO were not yet encouraging those functions that bringing crowds, whether they were conducting marriages, funerals or prayers in the churches.  

Dr. Wamala Joseph Francis, WHO country’s Preparedness and International Health Regulation Officer, said the WHO has only issued guidelines to be followed instead of lifting the measures.

“Until the guidelines have been adhered to or government prioritizes on others, it would not be wise to really open up without good guidance on what should be done to ensure that the risk of transmission is kept to low as people go back to social setting,” he said.

Dr. Wamala said developing other clear guidance and standards procedures to help social setting like schools and churches to eventually open would only be from the government.

 “It may not be normal as it was because of COVID-19, and if there are directives to reopen, it depend on the government or until we have a vaccine for this virus,” he concluded.

Coronavirus cases have continued to surge in the country. Cases have been reported in all the States.

Currently, South Sudan has 2,204 cases as of Sunday afternoon with 44 fatalities and 1,180 recoveries.  

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