Places of worship will be allowed to operate subject to strict restrictions in Alert Level 3 of the lockdown from the 1st of June, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced on Tuesday night, saying the decision to reopen places of worship and allow religious gatherings comes after engagements with the religious sector.

“Churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other recognised places of worship may resume services, but these will be limited in size to 50 people or less depending on the space available,” President said.

President Ramaphosa addressed the media where he led a call for a National Day of Prayer.

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The announcement follows a meeting of the National Coronavirus Command Council which considered the inputs made by the sector in recent consultations with interfaith leaders.

Church gatherings are not allowed currently as part of measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus. The president’s address tonight follow a meeting with religious leaders on the possible re-opening of churches.

Ramaphosa has come under criticism from some sectors for not allowing church gatherings to take place under Level 3 of lockdown.

“While churches are closed now the infections are increasing and the Health MEC in Western Cape said most of these infections are happening at shopping malls and nobody is warned about going to shopping malls. But they are putting measures to minimize the infections, which should also be done to churches and schools. So, as churches, we are looking at what measures and requirements are going to be placed in schools because if people are infected in shopping malls in churches and also in hospitals. They will also be infected in schools. So, people must not create the perception that it is only in the church where that is happening.”

The sentiment was also shared by the African Christian Movement’s Sbu Mncwabe, who also called for prioritising South Africans in opening the economy.

On Monday, South Africa reported 52 new COVID-19 related deaths bringing the death toll to 481.  The number of confirmed cases also shot up to 1032.

Currently, a total of 23 615 infections have been recorded with 11 917 recoveries. The Western Cape continues to be the hardest-hit province recording a total of 330 new cases. The province accounts for 65.2% of the total number of cases in the country, making it by far the epicentre of the virus in the country.

Gauteng accounts for 13% with the Eastern Cape reporting for 11%.

 

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