Muslims, Christians stand side by side outside Cape Town hospitals to pray for Covid-19 patients

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A patient looks on from her hospital window in Cape Town.
A patient looks on from her hospital window in Cape Town.
Supplied by Esa Alexander
  • Interfaith prayers are being held for Covid-19 patients and hospital staff in Cape Town.
  • Each session is limited to 15 people, with face masks and social distancing enforced.
  • Unexpected arrivals are asked to remain in their cars.

Muslims and Christians stand side by side, hands open to the sky or pressed together as they pray for coronavirus patients and healthcare workers in Cape Town.

Religious groups of all faiths and backgrounds have taken it in turns to take part in joint prayers outside hospitals over the past week, a spiritual show of support as a second wave of infections wreaks havoc across the country.

"In normal circumstances, any leader in this community would go freely to the house of a sick or bereaved person," said Pastor Gerhard de Vries-Block of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

"But due to lockdown we are not allowed to do that anymore."

Imam Sheik Salieg Isaacs has already prayed at more than a dozen hospital entrances and car parks.


"For now, we are doing hospitals only," he told AFP. "But we are also thinking of going to hospices soon and some old age homes."

The initiative is a way to express solidarity with patients battling Covid-19 alone, isolated from family and friends in plastic-wrapped hospital wards.

"We might not always have something to say but just to be there it means so much," De Vries-Block said.

"The frontline workers need our support," he added. "They need our prayers as much as the sick and the bereaved."

Isaacs said participants who personally knew a patient or health worker prayed outside their windows.

Prayer sessions are restricted to 15 people and unexpected arrivals are asked to remain in their cars.

Protocols of wearing a face masks and social distancing are enforced.

"We use a loud hailer so they can hear some sound," noted the imam. "But the main thing is the visual which can just give them some hope."

South Africa has recorded the continent's highest coronavirus tolls, with more than 1.3 million cases and 37 000 deaths confirmed to date.

The second wave of infection started in December and is fuelled by a new virus variant widely believed to be more infectious.


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