In a bid to break COVID-19 transmission chain, Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, has placed an indefinite ban on daily religious activities in mosques and churches, crowded cross-over night service, night vigils, and similar gatherings across the state.
Fayemi, who explained that the directive was to flatten the virus curve, approved Friday and Sunday worship services for Muslims and Christian faithful but ordered the congregation should not exceed 50 percent of total capacity.
The governor, who announced the directives on Wednesday during a state broadcast, stressed that though the season required religious gathering, public health, which was being threatened by the COVID-19 second wave, must be prioritised above other considerations.
He added that the religious houses must observe the service in strict compliance with COVID-19 protocols such as hand washing, use of hand sanitizers, observation of the approved social distance and to allow only half of the sitting capacity of the church to partake in the service.
According to him, churches and mosques are to enforce all the existing protocols and should return to only one service on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday as the case may be. Other weekly activities and congregational gatherings should be put on hold till further notice.
“In addition, protocols regarding wedding and burial ceremonies remain in force. There should be no crowd in the church auditorium and burial services must be at the graveside only.
“Supermarkets, event centres, hotels, and bar owners are to strictly ensure that social distancing measures are put in place and followed accordingly.
“Only half of the full sitting capacity of a facility can be allowed to participate in any ceremony/programme at any point and activities should not exceed 8 pm.
“Partying, clubbing, and vigils are suspended indefinitely until further notice. And I have directed that all schools should remain closed till January 18, 2021.
“I have also directed that civil servants on grade level 12 and below, should in the meantime, stay at home till January 18 when they would be directed on when they could resume.
“Government officials are to discourage in-person meetings as much as possible and no government official must be seen in the public without wearing facemasks”, the governor added.
Fayemi further disclosed that law enforcement officers have been strictly instructed to begin aggressive compliance enforcement activities in public places, including worship centers, event centers, markets, supermarkets, bars, and hotels.
According to him, the government will not hesitate to close down any facility indefinitely and to prosecute operators of any public places, flouting the protocols.
Justifying the new protocol, he argued that of the 7, 890 tests conducted since the outbreak over 405 confirmed cases have been recorded across the state.
He added that the record has since changed since discovery of the new strain in United Kingdom (UK) and that it was necessary for stringent measures to be imposed on the state.
“We have about 30 active cases currently under treatment in our isolation center. One frightening fact about these figures however is that we have recorded about 15 cases out of about 170 tests conducted in the last one week. This is near 10 percent confirmed cases as against the less than 5 percent that we used to have at the beginning of the pandemic, earlier in the year”.