South Sudan’s Kiir hints at reopening churches despite rise in COVID-19 cases

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South Sudan President Salva Kiir (centre) addresses the press jointly with First Vice President Riek Machar (R) at the State House in Juba, on February 20, 2020. AFP PHOTO
FILE PHOTO: South Sudan President Salva Kiir (centre) addresses the press jointly with First Vice President Riek Machar (R) at the State House in Juba. AFP PHOTO

South Sudan’s government is exploring possibilities of how places of worship will reopen across the country despite the country still registering an increase in COVID-19 cases.

President Salva Kiir made the revelation on Sunday during a luncheon held at the Presidential Palace in the capital Juba.

Kiir made remarks hinting that a reopening of places of worship was on the cards as he noted that the coronavirus was here to “stay with us”.

“Earlier, his grace asked me when we were resuming our prayers in church. I and my vice president James Wani are always in attendance. We always go to Kator Catholic Church. Your grace, be always assured that we will resume our prayers in the church. This coronavirus, even if it has not gone, has come to stay with us and we must take it like that,” Kiir said.

Kiir, however, stopped short of giving any specifics when the reopening may take place.

In March, during the onset of the pandemic, South Sudan imposed a number of strict measures to contain the spread of the pandemic, including closing places of worship and banning mass gatherings.

In May, Kiir, much to the consternation of a section of the population, eased some of the restrictions despite the number of COVID-19 cases rising. The curfew period was reduced, regional flights were allowed to resume while markets, shops and bars were allowed to reopen.

The South Sudan Doctors Union criticised the move saying it did not see the urgency in relaxing the rules and directives of the lockdown at a time when the country was experiencing an exponential rise in cases.

South Sudan, which already has a struggling healthcare system, has so far reported more than 2,400 confirmed COVID-19 cases, more than 45 deaths and more than 1,200 recoveries, according to the Africa CDC.

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