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As places of worship reopen today…President Bio urges strict compliance with COVID-19 measures

By Ibrahim Tarawallie

President Julius Maada Bio has urged religious leaders to ensure strict compliance with measures put in place to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the country as places of worship reopened today for congregational prayers.

Sometime in March this year, places of worship were shut down by the government based on expert advice on the possible risk of rapid community infection of COVID-19 among congregations.

Few weeks ago, the leadership of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone, during a meeting at State House, appealed to President Bio to strongly consider the reopening of places of worship.

The announcement by the president on Thursday July 9, 2020 to reopened Mosques and Churches was received with joy by the leaders and followers of the two dominant religions in the country.

In his address to the nation, President Bio stated: “I am therefore pleased to announce that effective Monday, 13th of July 2020, all mosques, churches, and other places of worship shall be open for congregation and worship. Congregation leaders are expected to help enforce full compliance with all measures at their places of worship. NACOVERC will announce a comprehensive list of enforceable measures as proposed by the Interreligious Council.”

He said the easing of restrictions does not mean an easing of the threat of COVID-19 because the virus is still highly infectious and deadly.

He urged citizens to take personal responsibility for protecting themselves and their loved ones from the dreadful virus, which has claimed the lives of over 50 Sierra Leoneans.

According to him, they have taken well-considered measures to protect lives and also sustain livelihoods through an inclusive and rigorous consultative process with stakeholders and experts as they strive to curtail the spread of COVID-19.

“Throughout, we have also urged strict compliance with all public health directives. Persons who are refusing to comply with health directives are exposing themselves, their loved ones, and their communities to the grave risk of infection and possible death,” he stated.

He strongly urged the leadership of the National COVID-19 Emergency Response Centre (NACOVERC) to take all necessary actions needed to enforce full compliance with all public health directives.

The president also announced that Lungi International Airport will be re-opened for all scheduled commercial flights on Wednesday July 22, 2020.

President of the Inter-Religious Council of Sierra Leone, Sheikh Abu-Bakarr Conteh welcomed the reopening of places of worship and thanked the president and his government for the move. He urged worshippers to adhere fully to the measures put in place to stem the spread of the virus.

According to him, even before the announcement by President Bio, they have been sensitizing their followers about the dangers of the virus and what they should do in order not to contact it.

“We believe followers of the two religions will strictly adhere to the measures. We know it will be difficult but we will continue urging them to abide by all the measures,” he assured.

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