Religious leaders want more people than the legislated 100 to be allowed to attend church services during alert level 1 of the lockdown.
Yesterday, some of them accused the government of being unfair towards churches by not allowing them an attendance of at least 50% of the capacity of their buildings during services.
On Sunday night, President Cyril Ramaphosa eased the country from lockdown alert level 3 to 1 – and with that, an increase in the number of people permitted at gatherings to 100 indoors and 250 outdoors. Previously under level 1, the government allowed 50 people indoors and 100 outdoors.
In response, Grace Bible Church founder and presiding bishop Mosa Sono said he was of the opinion that churches should be allowed to operate at 50% capacity of their buildings. He said churches were not “super-spreaders” of Covid-19.
“This is simply not true. There is no evidence, except the one incident at the beginning of the pandemic in March last year in Bloemfontein.
“At that time, no one knew was what happening with this virus,” Sono told thousands of people who joined the church’s virtual early morning prayer hour yesterday.
“What we are not told is that people involved in that event adopted the safety protocols and went into quarantine, and that only one life was lost while the rest of the people recovered.
“What concern me is that because we as churches comply with the regulations, our rights are simply trampled upon. We will not agree.”
He said there had been an increase in domestic violence and people experiencing depression and anxiety, as well as mental illnesses since the outbreak of the Covid-19. One of the reasons was that people were not getting a chance to go to church.
“Yes, they can log in on social media or watch on TV, but it is not the same. You want to be in a church, in the same building and surrounded by other believers.”
He quoted various scriptures showing the importance of believers worshipping together.
However, he said the number could be a challenge with bigger churches. He said churches should continue to engage the government on vaccine roll-out “so that the entire population can be immunised“.
Phumla Williams, the director-general of Government Communication and Information Systems, referred enquiries to the Ministry of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, which could not be reached for comment.
In other news – Ten suspects arrested in connection to Cape Town car dealership attack
Ten men were arrested in connection with a bizarre attack on the Toy Shop luxury car dealership in Cape Town last month.
The suspects, aged 22 to 47, appeared in the Cape Town Magistrate’s Court on Monday and will remain in custody until their bail hearing on 8 March. Learn more