Lagos rescinds order reopening churches, mosques

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By Benjamin Omoike

Lagos State Government has rolled back its earlier decision, granting partial re-opening to houses of worship.

The fresh order, announced on Tuesday by the Governor, Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu, follows fresh concerns about the Covid-19 pandemic.

By implication, churches and mosques in the state remain closed for religious activities and gatherings until further notice.

The Governor made the development known during the 15th press briefing held at the State House in Marina to give updates on Lagos Coronavirus (COVID-19), response.

Conversely, Sanwo-Olu said the State Government would be finalising the protocols to re-open basic and secondary schools, noting that meetings were currently being held with stakeholders. He said online learning already adopted by the State-owned tertiary institutions and secondary schools would go on until stakeholders agree on protocols for schools’ resumption.

The State Government had earlier directed‪ mosques and churches to re-open from June 19 and 21 for obligatory services only.

The Governor said the reversal of the reopening order became necessary, following the evolving scenarios being observed in the course of COVID-19 infection in the State. He said the Government would continue to monitor developments and take necessary steps when the coast is clear.

He said: “Dear Lagosians, in the most recent guidelines which we issued on the gradual easing of the lockdown, I noted that we would shortly be permitting the restricted opening of religious houses, on the condition of strict compliance with detailed guidelines issued by the Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC).

“We have been closely monitoring the situation since then, and have now concluded that we cannot proceed with any form of re-opening for places of worship in until further notice. We are now, hereby, suspending, with immediate effect, the plan to re-open religious houses and places of worship in Lagos until further notice.

“This is not a decision that we have taken lightly; it is simply in line with our ongoing evaluation of evolving scenarios regarding the course of the infection in Lagos and the corresponding public health advisory guidelines issued by the experts.

“We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and continue to base our decision-making on data modelling; as well as on the responsibility we have to act in a manner that ensures the protection of all Lagos residents.”

Sanwo-Olu also directed that all social and entertainment centres, including cinemas, cafès, restaurants, gyms, parks, nightclubs and social clubs, remain closed. The Governor said the LSSC should continue with the Register-to-Open initiative to get clearance for businesses and social centres ahead of the new date for reopening.

The registration is free of charge for all entities. Religious houses are exempted from the registration.

The Governor said the State had entered a phase in the battle against COVID-19 in which every resident, religious and business entity must take take personal responsibility for their safety.

Sanwo-Olu said: “Let me make this clear that, we are now fully in the phase of personal responsibility regarding this pandemic. This means that the Government will maintain its responsibility to take protective decisions for the common good. What will ultimately save us all and defeat this virus are the sensible personal decisions that we take on a daily basis.

“The responsibility we must take includes the use of face masks anytime we are going into public places, avoiding non-essential travel, staying at home when we don’t have any business being outside, and washing or sanitising our hands regularly. These are the simple but necessary steps that will save and protect us all.”

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