Adejoke Adeleye ,Abeokuta
Ogun state governor, Prince Dapo Abiodun on Friday announced the date for reopening of religious centers that were ordered closed about two months ago as part of measures to curb the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Governor said after deliberation and consultation by religious leaders among themselves and with government, it was agreed that Mosques across the state can start to reopen on Friday, June 19, 2020 while 21, June 2020 was chosen for for the beginning of opening of churches across the state.
The Governor, who gave this information, while briefing journalists on the weekly update of the pandemic at his office in Okemosan, Abeokuta, however, warned that any religious center or gathering that violate the guideline set out for the reopening and to stop the spread of the pandemic will be closed.
But the Governor said salons, eateries, bars, gyms, event centers remain closed while reminding traders to always wear their gloves and face masks.
The Governor said, “This a continuation of the gradual removal of days of restriction and extension of relaxation daily windows to our people. The last one week has been eventful, not just for the commencement of the new phase, but for other COVID-19 related developments.
“Yesterday, Thursday, 4th, June, 2020, we had the highest number of cases in one single day since the first index case on 27 February. We recorded 34 new cases on that day and with new cases recorded on other days between Thursday, 28th May and yesterday, the tally for the week is 74 new positive cases, as against 59 in the previous week, an increase of 31%.
“Thus, Ogun State has now recorded a total number of 316 positive cases to date. We thank God, once again, that in the same period, additional 4 individuals have been successfully treated and discharged from our Treatment Centers, bringing the total discharged cases to 168.
“This leaves us with 148 active cases. God’s benevolence also ensured that we did not record any additional mortality since the last briefing.
“We have trained the personnel of the correctional service in Ogun State, particularly their medical team, on how to identify suspected COVID-19 cases amongst inmates, quarantine and take swaps to prevent transmissions and outbreak in the correctional centres. They were also provided guidelines.
“In my last briefing, I indicated that we would engage the religious leaders to work out modalities for gradual lifting of restrictions on religions. The engagement process has commenced. Indeed, we have invited and received written submissions from both the Christian Association of Nigeria and the League of Imams and Alfas on their suggestions on how the restrictions on places of worship can be relaxed.
“Subsequent to the submissions, the representatives of the two religious bodies also jointly held meetings with high-level representatives of government to discuss the submissions.
“This is in line with our inclusive approach to governance. We believe that the approach will ensure that the final decisions that will be arrived at will enjoy the buy-in and ownership of the religious leaders who will in turn communicate these to their respective congregations.
“We should also recall that early this week, precisely on June 1st, the Presidential Task Force announced some relaxation on restrictions of religious activities, subject to the peculiarities of each State.
“After a robust deliberation by the joint meeting of religious leaders and government representatives and taking into cognizance the baseline guidelines issued by the Presidential Task Force, the following major conclusions were arrived at.
“The gradual relaxation of the lockdown is only because the there is an acknowledgement of a new normal, and there is therefore the need to start planning for the new normal.
“Government appreciates the cooperation of the religious leaders over time in the fight against this common enemy, particularly, their submissions on relaxation of restrictions on religious activities, which are practical, similar and mutually reinforcing.
“A sub- committee, inclusive of the religious leaders, will review the submissions, the discussions as well as expert opinions of medical scientists to harmonise all the views to arrive at a composite framework for final adoption of the committee in the next few days, on or before Friday, 12th June, 2020.
“The 12th June deadline for the completion of the guidelines, which will be unveiled to the public in my next address is to enable the gradual opening of religious activities to tentatively commence on Friday, 19th, June, 2020, subject to the review of preparedness by our churches and mosques to the new normal.
“A task force comprising of the religious leaders, government and security agencies will be established to monitor and ensure compliance with the agreed guidelines for religious activities; Any place of worship that violates the guidelines will be closed; The guidelines will be reviewed at regular intervals, based on developments, including expert opinions and data from the field.”