Bor police urge churches to abide by COVID-19 measures
Police authorities in the Jonglei State capital, Bor, have called on churches to strictly observe Covid-19 preventive measures during service, warning of stern penalties against those found in violation.
The call comes amidst reports of continued public gatherings at events, including Sunday church services, without adherence to the stipulated prevention measures.
Late last month, the National Taskforce on COVID-19, issued an order banning all forms of social gatherings until 3 March as the country witnessed a surge in cases.
Speaking to Radio Tamazuj Monday, Lt. Colonel John Mawut Ngang, the state’s police spokesperson, said they have been enforcing Coronavirus preventive measures at the places of worship since last week.
He also pointed out that they provide health education on COVID-19 besides enforcing the government ban.
“As police, we are out there reinforcing the government order banning all forms of social gathering. On Sunday, I attended service at the Nigel Church, people were observing social distancing as prayers were being held under a tree,” Mawut said.
The police officer warned, "If someone defies the COVID-19 rules then we will take action.”
Bor resident, Daniel Ayuel, said they are aware of the COVID-19 pandemic but they are unable to abide by the prevention protocols because of hardships.
“For us, we lack facilities. So, we are not able to observe Covid-19 measures. We are trying but it is really difficult,” he said.
Ajang Garang, another resident, said he started wearing a facemask and observing protocols since the partial national lockdown was imposed last month and advised fellow residents to strictly follow health guidelines on Covid-19.
Bishop James Deng of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan Makuac Diocese said Sunday services have been ongoing despite the ban, emphasizing that God is the only beacon of hope for South Sudanese.
“I do not see a reason why churches should be closed because if you are to go to markets people are congested. In Bor, no social distancing measures are being observed at food distribution points. As the church, we believe, it is through prayers that we will beat this virus,” Bishop Deng said.
He however pointed out that they educate masses on COVID-19 safety measures apart from preaching the gospel.
“We also educate people that they should wash hands with soap because we do not have sanitizers and observe social distancing. We are not against the government. COVID-19 is real but there is no need to ban churches,” the bishop stressed.
For his part, David Garang Goc, the head of the Jonglei Civil Society Network, urged the government to empower the locals by providing livelihoods and mass education on the virus, condemning the government Coronavirus-related restrictions as unfortunate.
“Government itself violates the COVID-19 ban and here they are preventing people from work through these measures. So, how can people survive? For us in Bor life is just normal,” he said.
Last month, Dr. Bol Chaw, the medical director of Bor State Hospital, said they had embarked on health education on the virus through radio stations but that myths and displacement caused by the floods and economic hardship make adherence to COVID-19 measures difficult.
On Monday, yesterday, the country recorded 148 new cases, bringing the total number of cases recorded to 5,710. Two people succumbed to the virus.