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Nelson Mandela Bay Metro engages churches on Level 3 regulations

Jun 1, 2020
Nelson Mandela Bay Metro engages churches on Level 3 regulations

Port Elizabeth - The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality held COVID-19 education and workshop sessions with church leaders in Motherwell on Friday, in preparation for the reopening of places of worship, as the country will be easing lockdown regulations from Monday.

Religious leaders from different denominations attended the workshop sessions, which were led by NMBM Public Health portfolio head Councillor Yolisa Pali and NMBM officials, in Wells Estate and Motherwell NU 30.

This formed part of the City’s intensified programme to fight the spread of the Coronavirus following the concerns raised by the Interim Executive Mayor Cllr Thsonono Buyeye when he launched the regulation enforcement programme in Motherwell on Thursday.

While the City has recorded a total of 1016 COVID-19 confirmed cases, Motherwell was highlighted as a hotspot for the spread of the virus after more than 110 cases were recorded in the area.

Speaking to church leaders on Friday, Councillor Pali said: “We need you to lead by example and prioritise the health of people more than prioritising getting money from tithes. We know that church leaders make a living from the offerings, but we are pleading with you to put people’s lives first. We need you to work with the government and not let us down, as many are waiting for you to disappoint us and mock the easing of the regulations.”

“Nelson Mandela Bay is today called a hotspot because the virus initially spread at funerals. We are asking you as church leaders and people who officiate at funerals to lead by example and educate our people about the dangers of this virus. We need you to adhere to the set rules when you reopen your doors so that people do not come into your churches in good health and leave with the virus.”

Councillor Pali pleaded with the church leaders to sanitise and disinfect the premises.

“We wanted to come and also arm them with information on what to do should one of their congregants have symptoms of the virus. We are trying to educate them; we can’t just assume that they know. We need them to adhere to the maximum number of 50 persons as per the regulations.”

Acting chairperson of the NMB Ministers Fraternal, Reverend Thandolwethu Gebengana, said the sessions were open to all church leaders, whether they would reopen their doors next week or not.

Reverend Gebengana said: “Before churches reopen, this education was important, as we are dealing with an unusual situation here. We were seeking from the President to grant us the status of being essential workers and educate congregants. We all have different ways of worshipping. We wanted to ensure that leaders are educated on how to protect themselves should they reopen their doors.”

“We want people to make informed decisions as some leaders have not even decided whether they will reopen or not. From today’s session, we learnt that the leaders will carry the responsibility to protect their congregants, that means we will have to prioritise safety before opening our doors. Among other safety measures, the leaders will have to ensure that the equipment is sanitised, and one will now need many microphones.”

Senior Pastor at Assemblies of God Gathering, Fuzile Budaza, said that church leaders were concerned about the limited number of 50 people allowed, while many premises could take up to 300 congregants and more. However, following the workshop, they understand why the number has been limited to 50.

He said: “The workshop has really helped us. COVID-19 is a new virus that is not well understood even by pastors. Residents do listen to us as pastors, so we will spread the word. The fewer people gather in one place, the better, as that means that fewer people will be interacting.”

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