Ramaphosa asks religious leaders to help contain spread of coronavirus

President Cyril Ramaphosa has appealed to all religious groupings in SA to help the government limit the spread of Covid-19.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has appealed to all religious groupings in SA to help the government limit the spread of Covid-19.
Image: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE

President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on religious leaders to assist the government in enforcing its ban on gatherings of more than 100 people across the country - even at funerals.

Addressing a meeting of representatives from all religious groupings to discuss their role in the government’s response to contain the coronavirus, Ramaphosa called on them to use their influence to assist efforts to contain the spread of the virus.

“It is also necessary to clarify that the regulations around gatherings of over 100 people also apply to funerals, over which our religious leaders preside. We call upon you to engage with bereaved families in the preparatory stages to impress upon them to confine the burial congregation to only close family wherever possible,” said the president.

Ramaphosa told religious leaders from various faiths that while the government respects the role of religion and prayer in the lives of millions of South Africans, the situation called for extreme measures.

The president said the government appreciates the announcements by the Methodist Church cancelling Good Friday and Easter Sunday services, by the Muslim Judicial Council (MJC) that the Friday prayer has been cancelled, and by the Zion Christian Church that the annual Moria pilgrimage has been cancelled.

He said the government was encouraged by the ongoing discussion among representative bodies to encourage worshippers to limit congregation sizes and to use alternative venues to mosques.

“We are keenly aware of the important role congregational worship plays in giving solace, comfort and strength to the men, women and children of South Africa,” he said.

Ramaphosa said SA is faced with the stark reality that the virus is spread through human contact.

“In limiting the size of public gatherings to no more than 100 people, we want to ensure that there is containment, because we have seen elsewhere just how quickly the coronavirus can be transmitted from one person to another, with even the most limited contact,” he said.

On Wednesday, Gauteng premier David Makhura said police would monitor funerals and weddings to ensure the law was complied with.

A church gathering in South Korea was seen to be at the epicentre of the spreading of the coronavirus in that country.

Ramaphosa said he was aware of the challenge to the Muslim community, who are required to worship five times a day.

“It is noteworthy that our faith communities are also harnessing the powers of technology, announcing that services will be livestreamed even through mobile phone applications,” he said.

Ramaphosa said the strict measures adopted by the government were in the public interest.

“We know that this is a particularly sensitive and difficult subject to manage, and as government we will continue to drive the message out there that there really is no event that is exempt from the regulations,” he said.

“This disease knows no boundaries of race or class, but it is the poor and vulnerable who will need us most.”


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