Coronavirus: We will heed Ramaphosa's prohibitions 'in the interest of saving the lives' - Limpopo churches

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The South African Council of Churches (SACC) in Limpopo says it will abide by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s plan to fight the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak.

Provincial chairperson Reverend Awedzani Nemaukhwe spoke to News24 shortly after Ramaphosa declared the virus a state of disaster in terms of the Disaster Management Act.

The president announced that there were now 61 confirmed cases in the country. Earlier on Sunday, there had been 51 cases confirmed by the health department.

Ramaphosa also said gatherings of more than 100 people would now be prohibited. As a result, celebrations on Human Rights Day had been called off.

Nemaukhwe said the council would now be engaging with its structures to reach a consensus that would adhere to Ramaphosa’s precautions and prohibitions.

"We are law abiding citizens and will go according to what government is saying. In the interest of saving the lives of the people of God, we will not go against what government is saying.

"I think, as law-abiding citizens, there is no reason why we should go against [the precautions]," he said.

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On Sunday afternoon, Limpopo Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba met with the council to speak about the dangers of gatherings, especially ahead of the Easter long weekend, where scores of congregations meet for conferences.

The provincial department said it had identified church gatherings as one of the major risks of spreading the virus, which broke out in Wuhan, China in December 2019.

Ramathuba said they had shared ideas on how churches could convene, including making use of the internet, and that they had now left it to the council to make a decision.

Coronavirus in SA: Ramaphosa declares national 'state of disaster', imposes travel bans

Nemaukhwe said it would, however, be difficult to make use of internet sites, such as Skype, for their gatherings because not everyone had access to the technology.

He added, however, that the leaders had discussed ideas of churches splitting up to meet in smaller groups. He said it would be easier to observe precautionary measures in smaller groups.  

"We are a rural province. The majority of the people do not even have the basics to communicate. Some do not even have the luxury of a cellphone and skyping would not even be possible to some of them," he said.

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