Excitement as churches resume in Ondo, first Nigeria’s SW state to ease COVID-19 lockdown

Congregants wearing face masks and observing social distancing in sitting arrangements, while thermometer was used to measure worshippers' temperature as churches resumed in Ondo State, on Sunday, May 31, 2020

After almost 10 weeks of COVID-19 lockdown, Christian worshipers were happy to assemble together again as church service resume in Ondo State on Sunday.

Returning congregants in Ondo were seen wearing face masks and adhering to the social distance principle even during church services in Akure, and other towns in the state.

Religious centres across the country and other public places had been locked down consequent upon the coronavirus pandemics to limit the spread of the highly infectious disease.

But after several weeks of restriction to movement, government had considered the reopening of economy and locked up places for activities to return to normal.

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The Ondo State government had placed a ban on religious and other public activities in March, but Governor Rotimi Aketedolu, last week lifted the lockdown order and asked churches and mosques to reopen on beginning from May 29.

He, however, restricted their meeting to only on Friday and Sunday, while still suspending other weekly programmes until further notice.

While relaxing the lockdown, Governor Akeredolu also warned that religious centres must observe COVID-19 protocols including social distancing, saying worshippers must wear face masks and wash their hands before and after gatherings.

He also instructed that mosques or churches that fail to comply would be shut down down.

With this move, Ondo became the first state from Nigeria’s South-West to ease the lockdown order.

In their Sunday services, churches compiled with the directives, as congregants were seen washing their hands using the facilities already provided to wash and sanitize their hands.

Likewise, a handheld thermometer was also being used to measure people’s temperature before being allowed to enter into the worship centres.

The water, soap, sanitisers and the thermometers had been made available by the churches before the worshippers arrived for the Sunday service.

Also, inside the church, worshippers sad in a way that compiled with the social distancing protocol while hugging and shaking of hands by worshippers to exchange pleasantries were not encouraged.

Though life returned to churches and members were happy to gather together again, some other churches who were still making arrangements for members resumption in a way that complies with government’s order on the keeping of hygiene and maintaining of social distance were yet to reopen.