Ugandan President Yoweri Katuga Museveni on Monday declared that places of worship will remain closed in a bid to avoid further spread of coronavirus.
According to the president, it is difficult to enforce preventive measures like physical distancing in Churches, or set up and implement contact tracing, since “there are no records of congregants,” he said.
“The restriction on religious gatherings should be maintained and re-evaluated in the last phase of lifting COVID-19 restrictions,” President Museveni said in a televised address.
Mr Museveni stated that the risk of COVID-19 spread is much greater in an indoor setting.
“Now that we have this virus in the population,” Mr Museveni stated, “opening places of worship will be an added problem.”
“We are still struggling with the public transport. We have opened private cars to move, we have opened shops, to add on all this, is to take on too much,” he said.
Uganda confirmed four more cases of Covid-19 from 2,224 samples tested on June 21; raising the number to 774.
“The various places of worship by nature attract persons irrespective of their nature, lifestyle and risk profile. Mitigation by use of masks, hand and coughing hygiene may also be difficult to enforce – especially religious ceremonies such as holy communion,” he said.
On March 18, President Museveni suspended public gatherings including all in-person Church services across the country.
He used Psalms 139:7-8 to justify his decision and encouraged Christians to pray from their homes and maximize digital platforms for ministry. He said, “God can hear our prayers from anywhere and His blessings upon our lives are boundless.”
President Museveni in his speech said the national COVID-19 task force and Ministry of Health should engage faith leaders in the coronavirus response across various levels given their critical role in shaping society perspectives and behavior.
Restrictions on worship are some of the complaints being raised by a section of Church leaders opposing how Mr Museveni has managed the coronavirus pandemic.
Earlier this month, some pastors, primarily of large independent congregations, contested that the President’s restrictions infringe on their rights granting them freedom of religion and assembly.
Demanding their places of worship reopen with social distancing protocols among other Covid-19 preventive guidelines, Pastors fore example Umar Mulinde of Gospel Life Church International likened continued Church closures to ‘atheism pride.’
On his part, Church of Uganda Archbishop Samuel Kaziimba said: “We, the religious institutions, have more organised places of worship than even markets and we are humble, disciplined and compliant with all necessary measures, including sanitisers, handwashing facilities and are allies in the pandemic campaign.”
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