By Orkula Shaagee, Abuja and Joseph Amedu, Lokoja
As the spread of Coronavirus disease intensifies with increase of positive cases, Churches around the country yesterday ignored the directives against public gathering of people more than 50 at a place.
DAILY ASSET, which monitored the situation yesterday in Abuja observed that while expressed fears, others indifferent and went about their respective businesses including worshipping in churches and mosques.
The federal government, through the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), yesterday confirmed that COVID-19 cases have increased to 30, with three new recorded in Lagos.
“Three new cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Lagos, with two cases being returning travellers and one as a contact of a confirmed case.
“As at 05:28 pm on the 22nd of March, there are 30 confirmed cases of #COVID19 in Nigeria. 2 have been discharged with no deaths,” NCDC tweeted.
The Lagos State Ministry of Health earlier gave an update on the new cases, saying that one of the three new patients is a 51-year-old Briton who arrived Nigeria on March 8 via BA75 flight.
“The second patient is a Nigerian who returned on March 14 through a connecting flight; KL0582 London -Amsterdam / KL0587 Amsterdam – Lagos.
“The third patient is a 65-year-old United States citizen who arrived in Lagos about six weeks ago, but has just tested positive to the virus.
“Given a rise in the number of confirmed cases, citizens have been advised to practise social distancing, wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitizer”, NCDC tweeted.
Several measures have been put in place by the federal and state governments to stall the spread of the virus, such as the closure of schools and the suspension of social and religious gatherings of more than 50 persons.
The Lagos State Government also announced on Sunday that civil servants from grade levels one to 12 should stay at home for 14 days starting from Monday 23, 2020.
Of Nigeria’s 30 confirmed cases, two have been discharged while no death has occurred from the disease.
A breakdown shows that Lagos State still tops the chart with the highest number of confirmed cases.
As of the time of reporting, Lagos State had reported 22 cases, Abuja – four, Ogun – two, Ekiti – one and Oyo – one.
Consequently, Churches in Lagos State
yesterday recorded partial compliance with the ban by the State Government on
gathering of not more than 20 people over Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that most Churches had their normal services while other had their services at various community/zonal centres.
At the Living-spring International Chapel, Ikeja, the time of service was adjusted from 8-10 am, with members holding service at different zones instead of the usual congregational service.
The General Overseer, Pastor Femi Emmanuel said that the step was taken in compliance with the directive from the state government of not more than 20 people in a gathering.
Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) Parish, Okupe Estate, Maryland, the service was adjusted to 50 people per service.
NAN reports that although the Church was scanty, there was quite a large space between worshipers.
In Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), an unconfirmed report stated at the weekend that three passengers aboard a British Airways (BA), was tested positive of COVID-19 and isolated for further action.
One of the passengers, whose wife tested negative, according to the unconfirmed report, is an employee of the Federal Inland Revenue Services (FIRS).
“We are getting in touch with the University of Abuja Teaching Hospital. We are moving them now, we would give more details as soon as possible concerning their flight”.
Churches Ignore Stay at Home Order in Kogi
Despite warnings, many Churches in Kogi state yesterday ignored the order as many people went for their normal congregational prayers.
Sources hinted that various churches in Lokoja, the Kogi State Capital and its environs opened for congregational services.
It was gathered that yesterday services were, however, used as opportunity to pray against the pandemic disease wreaking havoc across the globe and threading lives and economic activities since it outbreak four months ago.
It was learnt that people turned out in their large numbers , while some people still felt reluctant to go to Churches and remain at home to observe prayers.
Checks also revealed that some religious leaders, yesterday have also announced temporary closure of their churches so that as from next week to observe no gathering of more that 30 order by the Federal and State governments .
Meanwhile as part of efforts to ensure the people of Kogi state don’t contact pandemic Coronavirus , the Ministry of Health has distributed hand washing materials to some markets, communities and Government offices in Lokoja.
In a statement signed the Public Relation Office ,Ministry of Health ,Mrs Dorothy Onoja copy of which was made available to journalists in Lokoja on Sunday ,said that the state will not leave any stone unturned to ensure the people are safe from contact the disease.
The commissioner for health, Doctor Saka Haruna said the campaign against coronavirus will be taken to every nook and cranny of the state during the sensitization outreach on Corona virus in Lokoja.
The Commissioner explained that with the support of Governor Yahaya Bello, measures had been put in place to fight the scourge of the virus.
Police Disperse Worshippers in Ogun
Ogun State Police Command disclosed that some worship centres in the State complied with the directive banning high density gatherings over COVID-19, but added that those who gathered for service in defiance of the ban were dispersed by its Policemen.
The Command’s Police Public Relations Officer, Abimbola Oyeyemi, said that the ban was being enforced state-wide, but was silent on the particular worship centres where congregants were “dispersed by the Police.”
According to him, no arrest was made on the worshippers but they were only dispersed and asked to go home to observe private worship or prayer.
Hours earlier, the State Police Command had threatened to arrest and prosecute anybody or group that violate restrictions and bans on high density gatherings such as churches, mosques, restaurants, cinemas and sports arenas in Ogun.
The ban was imposed on worship centres and other high density gatherings by the Federal and State governments respectively, following the outbreaks of COVID-19 in the country and the measure was taken to manage and contain the spread of the virus in the state and country.
The Police Command advised people to steer clear of gatherings that would attract 50 or more persons, warning that the Police was ready to arrest and prosecute violators of the directive.
However, some of the churches that opened reduced their services to one hour to accommodate two services, with each of the services holding 50 members and provided sanitizers, hand washing bowls and water for the congregants.
The church authorities were seen screening to ensure that those in the church hall did not exceed 50. The sitting arrangements also ensured distance between worshippers.
At the Victory Life Bible Church located along Abeokuta-OGTV –Ajebo Road, attendance did not exceed 50 members, while the church also provided sanitizers.
Similarly at Celestial Church Ibara, Abeokuta, a notice at the church gate informed members of the cancellation of service.
“In compliance with the State Government’s directive on coronavirus endemics, church members and visitors are hereby advised to stay away from the church premises until further notice. Please pray at home.”
At Cathedral Church of Peters in Ake, Abeokuta, 50 members each attended two services lasting an hour each.
When our correspondent visited the Owu Baptist Church at Ita- Iyalode, it was under lock and key, while the same measures were applied at Ibara Baptist Church, as well as African Church Cathedral, Ita Iyalode and African Church, Idi-Ape, Abeokuta.
Meanwhile, some churches also took advantage of their large premises to mount loudspeakers for worshippers who were not allowed into the church hall to follow from outside.
Kano Closes Islamic Schools
Kano State government has said all places of learning for western, Quranic and Islamiyya schools should be shut down from Monday 23 March as a measure to prevent the spread of the dreaded corona virus pandemic ravaging the world.
The Chairman of Kano State Quranic, Islamiyya and Tsangaya schools board Sheik Gwani Yahuza Gwani Dan Zarga confirmed the schools’ closure while speaking with reporters in Kano yesterday.
He said the state government in line with north-west governors agreement instructed schools to shut down to avoid gathering of people that can lead to the spread of the disease among pupils.
According to the Board Chairman, “all Quranic, Islamiyya and Tsangaya schools are expected to be shut from Monday 23 March as directed by the State government.
Gwani Yahuza who said that Kano has 12 Tsangaya model schools , said the directive is not to prevent learning but rather to safeguard against the COVID-19.
‘’Religious leaders and others should please intensify prayers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 pandemic that is ravaging the world,’’ .
The Nation recalled that Kano State government on Friday Ordered the Closure of Schools in the state for 30 days over the pandemic corona virus.
However residents were the opinion that the closure does not include Islamiyya ,Qur,anic and Tsangaya schools.