Some worshipers ignore State's Covid-19 rules as churches reopen

Sunday July 19 2020

A worshiper without a mask at St Barnabas Ngucui Anglican Church in Kirinyaga County on July 19. PHOTO | GEORGE MUNENE | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Several churches across the county reopened Sunday with a number of worshippers disregarding the government's guidelines on containing Covid-19.

The interfaith council announced that phased reopening would begin on July 14 but with strict adherence to rules for curbing the deadly virus. Only 100 people are allowed in the one-hour services and faithful aged below 13 and above 58 cannot attend.

Worshippers started streaming into churches in Kirinyaga and Embu from as early as 9am Sunday but only a few of them wore masks.

Some faithful interacted freely without observing the prescribed social distancing rules.


An elderly woman sits outside St.Joseph's Cathedral in Kakamega County on July 19, 2020 as mass goes on in the church. According to the government''s Covid-19 guidelines, people aged 58 years and above are not allowed into places of worship. PHOTO | ISAAC WALE | NATION MEDIA GROUP



A survey by the Nation in a number of churches also established that many had neither handwashing points nor thermo guns for screening the faithful before entering into the places of worship.

This, therefore, means that churches could easily be fertile grounds for the spread of the disease which has so far claimed more than 225 lives and left 12,750 infected in Kenya.

Some churches also allowed children who looked younger than 13 years.


At the same time, most of the churches recorded a poor turnout of between 10 and 20 worshippers. Others remained closed as nobody turned up.

In Nairobi, turnout was generally low as many opted to follow services online.

At the Africa Inland Church branch at the General Service Unit headquarters in Ruaraka, only 23 members were present.

Officers required them to wash their hands, have masks and have their temperatures checked. They were also sprayed at the entrance.

Reverend Stephen Mwariri said the church would observe all the guidelines the government issues.

At AIC Ziwani, Rev. Muli Manthi streamed services online alongside the physical gathering while the doors of Mountain of Fire Ministries in Ruaraka remained shut.


Church leaders register members at AIC's branch at the GSU headquarters in Ruaraka, Nairobi, on July 19, 2020. PHOTO | FAITH NYAMAI | NATION MEDIA GROUP


The Pentecostal Alliance of Kenya has been pushing for the government to open churches for all people and leave the responsibility of ensuring anti-virus rules are observed to management.

Chairman Bishop Jonah Kariuki said limiting the time of worship to an hour is an insult to God and should not be entertained in a country where the Constitution allows the right of worship.

“This country must realise that the church of  Jesus Christ must not suffer because of lack of knowledge,” Bishop Kariuki said last week.


Worshippers at Mandera Catholic Church on July 19, 2020. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


At Mandera Catholic Church, the mass was conducted within the stipulated one hour but some worshippers lacked face masks. The police  officers present did not take action against them.

The church, with a capacity for 200 people, has markings on the benches which allow only half that number to attend services.

 Mr Prosper Kitetu, a church committee member, said some people were ignorant of the Covid-19 reality.

“A few people still forget to wear masks but we are hoping they will get used to the new normal as time goes by,” he said.

“We agreed on the terms and conditions set by the government. Our mass starts at exactly 9am and ends in an hour,” he also said.

At Mandera Community Church, elder Bernard Ogutu said some people attended the service without masks but that all other rules were observed.

He said Sunday school services remained suspended and that no elderly members were present.

At Redeemed Church within the police line, some members arrived without masks while some had them below the chin.


Empty seats are pictured at Mandera Community Church on July 19, 2020. PHOTO | MANASE OTSIALO | NATION MEDIA GROUP


Mosques that reopened two Fridays ago have been recording high numbers of faithful.

“There is nothing like social distancing in our mosques. In case this disease strikes it will sweep through Mandera,” said resident Ali Abdi.

“Very few people understand the effects of Covid-19. Most still believe there is no such disease in Mandera.”

On Friday, Governor Ali Roba raised the alarm over laxity in observing guidelines against the coronavirus.

“We are alarmed that our people have abandoned wearing masks and social distancing. This is not healthy. It will result in more infections,” he said.

“We warn our people that while in public spaces such as markets and places of prayer, they must adhere to the rules and regulations governing Covid-19 prevention. If they are not observed, we are afraid the situation will get out of control.”

Mandera recorded its first Covid-19 death on Friday, with a rise in the number of infections to 20.

Eighteen patients have since been discharged from the main Isolation center at Mandera County Referral Hospital.

Reports by George Munene, Faith Nyamai and Manase Otsialo