OPINION | Easter, Passover and Ramadaan under lockdown: Don't let your guard down while celebrating

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The writer has urged church-goers to adhere to regulations when atteding services over the Easter weekend.
The writer has urged church-goers to adhere to regulations when atteding services over the Easter weekend.
Duncan Alfreds, News24

Thamsanqa Phechudi writes that although the transmission rate of Covid-19 remains relatively low at the moment, we must not let our guard down as we observe our religious celebrations.

This weekend, many South Africans will travel around the country to visit their families, friends and, more importantly, join the rest of the world in observing religious celebrations. 

It is also a time when we see an increase in traffic volumes on the road. Unfortunately, there is usually a high rate of road accidents and fatalities over the period.

Even one death on our roads is one too many and with it, comes untold heartache and familial distress, whether financial or emotional. Accidents can be avoided if motorists and pedestrians take responsibility and make a conscious decision to abide by laws and the rules of the road.

It is a sad reality that most road accidents and fatalities are caused by human error and can be prevented. Common root causes of accidents are driving under the influence of alcohol, excessive speeding, a failure to wear a seatbelt, dangerous overtaking, mobile phone use while driving, unroadworthines and pedestrians' failure to observe traffic rules.

Negative impact of accidents on the economy

Road accidents also negatively impact the economy as we lose much-needed skills. According to research conducted by the Road Traffic Management Corporation (RTMC), in collaboration with the South African Medical Research Council and the University of South Africa, drunk driving alone costs the economy R18.2 billion annually. Driver alcohol intoxication accounts for 27.1 percent of the fatal crashes in the country.

We appeal to those who will tale long-distance journeys to ensure that all vehicles, buses and taxis are roadworthy. Follow the rules of the road, do not overload vehicles, employ only qualified drivers and take rest stops.

This is the second year that the country marks the annual Easter break amid the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Christians will celebrate Easter while the Jewish community celebrates Passover and the Muslim community starts to observe the holy month of Ramadaan. 

While the transmission rate remains relatively low at the moment, we must not let our guard down as we observe religious celebrations.

We must continue to adhere to restrictions, especially the basics of social distancing, wear a mask at all times in public and wash our hands with soap and water or sanitiser.

Irresponsible behaviour such as not observing physical distancing at any gathering, overcrowded and inadequately ventilated venues places us all at risk.   

Churches, religious organisations and all event organisers should adhere to lockdown restrictions over this weekend. The maximum number of people allowed at any gathering, including churches, is 250 people indoors and 500 people outdoors. The government increased this number following extensive consultations with various stakeholders, including faith-based organisations and it will be reviewed in the near future. 

Livestreaming services 

Where possible, churches and religious organisations should continue to livestream their services, as has been the norm since the outbreak of the pandemic. This allows congregants to participate in church services from the comfort of their homes. This technology has also assisted our national effort to contain the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has tested us like never before, but we have witnessed all society's sectors working together to contain the spread of the disease. We applaud churches and religious organisations for their unwavering commitment to fight the pandemic.

Faith and spirituality play an essential role in strengthening individual and collective resolve under challenging times. The faith and spirituality of our nation have fortified us as we face the onslaught of this virus. 

Churches and religious organisations have been invaluable in promoting a powerful positive force in renewing our hope of a better tomorrow, harnessing our shared values to support one another and changing behaviour in the face of prevailing uncertainties. In exercising their faith, spirituality, and humanity, South Africans have ensured the well-being of people in their communities, especially senior citizens, women, youth, and persons with disabilities. 

As we continue to exercise the right to freedom of religion and fight the spread of the virus, let us do so by adhering to restrictions and making sure that we do not put others' lives at risk.

Getting through these testing times will require understanding, prayer and spiritual encouragement. May God continue to bless South Africa and protect her people as we fight back against this pandemic.

- Adv Thamsanqa Phechudi on behalf of the Bantu Church of Christ.

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