CHURCH services resumed across Lagos State yesterday as the government eased the restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic with attendance being very poor as worshippers stayed away to avoid infection.
Like most nations on earth, Nigeria banned all religious gatherings in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic as part of its national shutdown. Over recent weeks, the government has gradually been easing the lockdown, allowing flights to resume, opening markets, permitting inter-state travel and now lifting the restrictions on religious worship.
Lagos State is the worst affected part of Nigeria, so the state government took it times before allowing churches and mosques to resume. Yesterday churches opened for the first time since March with worshippers observing the strict safety protocols including social distancing, wearing facemasks and disinfecting their hands.
Several leading clergymen including Pastor Tunde Bakare, Reverend Chris Okotie, Prophet TB Joshua and Pastor Sam Adeyemi, however, refused to open their churches for now. Pastor Bakare said reopening of churches in the midst of the rampaging pandemic would amount to driving Christians like sheep to the slaughter houses, while Pastor Okotie rejected the use of face masks in the church, saying it will amount to the reintroduction of the veil, which was abolished when Jesus Christ died on the cross.
Pastor Joshua said he needed to hear from God before reopening his church, while Pastor Adeyemi directed the church not to resume until September. Despite the reopening of churches, the streets of Lagos were shorn of heavy traffic of worshippers yesterday, as only a few of them attended services.
In Ikorodu for instance, the 8.15am mass in Saint Augustine Catholic Church, Mary Hill, held with strict adherence to the Covid-19 protocol and regulations. However, only 40% of worshippers were allowed in per mass, with two services running simultaneously, while security personnel on the ground assisted with crowd control.
Also, there were various hand-washing stations and sanitiser dispensers at strategic points within the church, just as they ensured all worshippers wore face masks. During the service, all worshippers observed social distance, with only three parishioners on a pew, just as the service was short.
In Oshodi, it was no different as the 6 am mass at St Paul’s Catholic Church, was held in five different locations within the church premises. Each location had a maximum of 50 persons and people were moved to the next location once the previous reached its full capacity.