Lagos Relaxes Restrictions on Religious Activities
Lagos State Government has modified the protocols and guidelines recently announced by the Presidential Task Force (PTF) on Coronavirus Response, which gave a regulated permission for resumption of business and religious activities across the nation as part of measures to ease the nationwide lockdown.
Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu, on Thursday, granted partial relaxation of the prohibition placed on religious gatherings.
From June 19; Muslims can congregate for Jummat service only, from June 21, Christian worshippers are allowed to open churches only for Sunday services.
However, all the permitted religious activities must be conducted within the ambit of a set of new protocols for organised gathering rolled out by an inter-ministerial committee set up by Gov. Sanwo-Olu and chaired by Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations.
These developments were announced at the Governor’s 13th briefing held at the State House in Marina.
Under the new guidelines, cinemas, cafès, restaurants, gyms, parks and nightclubs, social clubs are still not permitted to re-open. They are mandated to register with Lagos State Safety Commission (LSSC) under the Register-to-Open Initiative via registration portal, www.lasgsafetyreg.com, where they will obtain safety clearance before their opening date will be announced.
Houses of worship are, however, exempted from LSSC registration and clearance, but their activities will be duly monitored by the Safety agency.
The Governor emphasised that the pronouncement should not be taken as permission for full reopening of places of worship; their activities must be limited to obligatory worships only, Sanwo-Olu maintained, adding that daily vigils and other extra-religious activities remained prohibited.
Besides, Sanwo-Olu said the State had not got clear signals for the re-opening of schools, pointing out that the Government was still meeting with stakeholders to agree on protocols for school resumption. This, he said, is expected to be finalised in two weeks.
However, the Governor affirmed the Federal Government-imposed dusk-to-dawn curfew, starting from 10pm to 4am.
He said: “In line with the promise I made to you two weeks ago, I set up a committee with several Ministries chaired by the Commissioner for Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Relations, to draw up guidelines for the phased re-opening of organised gatherings in the State.
“We will, from June 19 and 21, 2020, be allowing all our places of worship to re-open for obligatory services only at the maximum of the 40 per cent of their capacities. These eased measures must be accompanied by physical distancing, mandatory temperature checks, use of face masks and strong personal hygiene.
“Social, entertainment and event centres, such as clubs, gyms, spas, parks, nightclubs, and cinemas, will still remain closed for the next two weeks at first instance. The operators of these centres should use this period to prepare their premises for reopening, by registering with the Lagos State Safety Commission and familiarise themselves with the detailed guidelines and requirements.”
Sanwo-Olu prohibited vulnerable persons from participating in organised religious gatherings, saying houses of worships must consider the option of virtual platform for members below 15 years and above 65 years. Officiating priests above 65 years are exempted, but they must maintain appropriate social distance from the congregants.
The Governor directed that houses of worship must also maintain a “no face mask, no entry” policy throughout the duration of their activities. Periodic cleaning and disinfection of facilities, the Governor said, must be carried out on these religious facilities in line with public health guideline of the State.
He said: “Crowd capacity must be limited to no more than 40 per cent of the approved occupancy limit of religious centres by the State Government, with a maximum limit of 500 people irrespective of the size of the religious centre. We strongly advise members of the congregation to avoid food offerings (communion) when it is being shared from common dishes.
“Also, sharing of kettles during ablution is strictly prohibited. The decision to proceed, restrict, modify, postpone or cancel a worship service after a thorough risk assessment solely lies with the State Government. All places of worship must nominate a person who would liaise with the State Government to obtain a safety clearance for their premises.”
Sanwo-Olu also directed all civil servants on the Grade Levels 13 to 14 in the unified public service to return to work from June 8. All civil servants from Grade Level 1 to 12 are to still stay away from the office until further notice. The Governor said private firms and manufacturing companies could now operate from 7am to 6pm, but enjoined them to run shift and flexible working hours to prevent overcrowding in their places of business.
The Governor said only social clubs with registered trustees and verifiable governance structure would be permitted to re-open in two weeks time. Unstructured social clubs and event centres are not permitted to open, for now, the Governor ordered.
Sanwo-Olu directed the State’s Safety agency to strictly enforce the new guidelines and drive compliance, while also ordering the Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency (LASEPA) to support the effort.
Addressing observed challenges in BRT operations, the Governor disclosed that Government would be deploying 570 buses to upscale the current operating capacity of the State-owned transport firm. This, he said, will drive up compliance to social distancing guidelines in the public buses.
Sanwo-Olu reiterated the mandatory use of face masks in public places, urging the residents to take responsibility for their conduct outside their homes.