Lagos State governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has lifted the ban on religious gatherings in the state, starting from June 19, 2020.
During a media briefing on Thursday, June 4, the governor said his government will allow a restricted opening of religious houses based on compliance reviewed by the state’s safety commission.
The governor said mosques are allowed to reopen on June 19, while churches are allowed to reopen on June 21, with only mandatory Friday and Sunday services, respectively.
He warned that other regular services must be put on hold until another review of the current situation.
Noting that mass gatherings can increase the spread of the coronavirus, Sanwo-Olu said churches and mosques can only reopen at a maximum of 40% of their capacity.
He added that worship centres are not allowed to have more than 500 worshippers at a time, even if it falls below the 40% threshold.
“We’ll be encouraging people to have more than one services and to ensure that they keep their premises clean, and disinfect before another round of worship can take place,” he said.
Religious gatherings have been banned in Lagos, and most of Nigeria, since March in a bid to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Sanwo-Olu also said that people below the age of 15 should be excused from worship centres, and people above the age of 65 should not be allowed into the premises because they’re more vulnerable to the novel disease.
Worshippers are also mandated to wear face masks before gaining entry into the worship centres.
He said physical contact between worshippers should be limited as much as possible, and advised leaders of religious centres to adhere to other safety measures to keep worshippers safe.
The governor said the ban on the reopening of event centres will remain in place until the government says otherwise. He urged business owners to continue to prepare their facilities for safe reopening.
Governor Sanwo-Olu said state authorities will move around at random to check compliance of worship centres to the guidelines.
Mass gatherings had been largely suspended in Nigeria since March until the government started easing restrictions last month, with businesses resuming first.
The Presidential Task Force on COVID-19 announced on Monday, June 1 that it was lifting the ban on religious gatherings even though the number of coronavirus cases keeps rising in the country.
The government’s decision has baffled many Nigerians, leading the PTF’s national coordinator, Sani Aliyu, to even admit on Tuesday, June 2 that places of worship are recognised as a major potential for spreading COVID-19 infection, as demonstrated in several outbreaks globally.
However, he said a list of strict guidelines will guide the reopening of worship centres across the country, to prevent a devastating outbreak.
Aliyu also advised that it’s still safer for people to worship at home instead of places of worship that are expected to be crowded, regarded as a danger as the rate of infections in Nigeria grows exponentially.