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Opinion: Should the ban on public and religious gatherings be lifted?

A few months ago, when the coronavirus had just started spreading, and health workers around the world were struggling to both identify what they were fighting against, and to contain its spread, the country of South Korea was about to experience a catastrophic explosion in infections.

Patient 31

Around the middle of February, South Korea was doing a very good job containing the spread with a total of just 30 cases, but that was about to change very quickly with a patient who gained international fame as Patient 31.

As part of measures put in place to contain the spread, restrictions were placed on huge public gatherings to reduce the risk of person to person spread. A small church in the city of Daegu however broke these rules and continued to have large congregations for its members, and this is how in the space of two weeks, one 61 year old woman started a deadly chain of local infections which would see the numbers spiral from thirty, into the thousands. This 61 year old woman was patient 31.

She had become infected earlier, and her taking part in these church meetings resulted in over 2500 new infections traced back to her.

A lesson which could easily have been avoided had to be learnt on hindsight. The Shincheonji church of Jesus Christ, albeit too late finally realized they acted most recklessly, putting the lives of so many Koreans at risk; with its leader Lee Man-hee kneeling on the floor at a conference and begging for forgiveness, after Seoul city authorities filed a murder complaint against him for failing to cooperate with government measures to curb the epidemic.

In Ghana, soon after covid-19 came to our shores, one of the first actions taken by the President was to issue a ban on public gatherings, including churches. There were many agitations from religious leaders and church goers alike, with some pastors and their congregations even flouting the directives and going on to hold church services in sometimes crowded conditions. Those who were caught were made to face the full rigours of the law, with hefty fines and jail terms imposed on them.

With time however, churches began to accept the new norm, with online church services soon became the new way of life. The chief Imam on his part also issued a call to the Muslim faithful to stay at home and pray, and not risk their lives and those of others.

With the subsequent easing of restrictions on businesses, and some other parts of life, the call for the ban on religious gatherings to be lifted has once again surfaced. There have been many calls by pastors, and other religious leaders to allow them reopen their places of worship.

In my opinion, this is slightly problematic; we are a people who couldn't be trusted to stay at home during the lock-down, can we be trusted to keep a social distance, most especially in church?

Activities in our markets and public places leave much to be desired about our awareness and seriousness towards this disease. What is even more alarming is the spike in infections since the lifting of the lock down two weeks ago.

Our attitudes to keeping a safe distance leave much to be desired, and even though the wearing of masks is being encouraged, and in many areas made compulsory, the risk of infection is still very high, and our figures prove it.

When it comes to Ghana, the worst is certainly yet to come, and with 22 people dead already, are we sure we want to take that risk of even one more, if we can avoid it? Is it worth risking our own patient 31 situation for religious gatherings which are just as effective online?

Assuming, online services were not even an option, given the lessons from South Korea, are we sure we want to risk gatherings in church? The saying goes, “make new mistakes, but not those already made by others”

With our alarming rate of increase in recent weeks, it would be most unfortunate if we succumb to the pressure.

Our religious bodies have done an amazing job providing food, shelter and immeasurable support during these torrid times. Let’s not risk eroding all the good work.

Please, Let us wait just a little bit more.

Content created and supplied by: EuniceOdumBoateng (via Opera News )

Daegu Jesus Christ Shincheonji South Korea

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