The Presidential Taskforce, PTF, on COVID-19 on Tuesday told persons over 50 years and those with certain health problems to shun worship centres in order to protect themselves from contracting the ravaging virus.
PTF gave the advice while announcing the relaxation of the ban on congregational worship imposed by the federal government since March 31 amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Speaking at the routine daily press conference of the committee in Abuja, its National Coordinator, Dr. Aliyu Sani, stated that persons over 50 and those having some health issues including diabetes and cancer are susceptible to the virus infection.
He therefore urged worshippers who fall within the said categories to steer clear from worship centres in order to avert contracting the disease and contain the spread.
According to him: “We are strongly advising vulnerable individuals such as those with underlying conditions like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, HIV, cancer and those above the age of 55 years to please stay at home and consider remote participation or non-contact attendance.
“When we look at the death rate for persons who have died from COVID-19 in Nigeria, the case fatality rate; more than half of those that died were above the age of 50.
“Secondly, the case fatality rate if you are above the age of 50, is 17 per cent. If you are above the age of 55, it is 18 per cent. It is almost a one in five chances of dying if you catch COVID-19 and you fall within that group.
“Worshippers should be reminded not to attend in person if experiencing common symptoms of COVID-19, including fever, cough and shortness of breath or have had close contact with an infected person in the last 14 days.
“All worshippers noted to have temperature or are symptomatic should be turned back and not allowed admission.
“Places of worship should ideally keep up to date record of their staff including contact details and if possible, a record of attendees of church services for instance or even small mosque to enable contact tracing in the event that somebody comes up positive.
“Considering the dangers posed by the pandemic, we strongly recommend that religious visits to homes by religious clerics should be discouraged.”
Meanwhile, contrarily, the ban on worship centres in Lagos and Osun is still in force.
”Even before the pronouncement by Federal Government, we have been having meetings with the religious leaders, we even had one with Safety Commission, looking at the possibility of reopening of religious houses.
”We also had one with the leaders of the two faiths and I want to tell you categorically that at that meeting, possibility of reopening religious houses was ruled out totally.
”They claimed that they cannot take such responsibility of ensuring that only 20 or 50 people are praying behind them.
”Like an Imam said, he doesn’t know what is going on at the back immediately he is leading a prayer. He said if more than 20 or 50 people are staying at his back he is not going to take responsibility for their presence.
”So, in the meeting, we ruled out in totality the issue of reopening the religious houses until we have a clear coast for us to do so.
”The Federal Government mentioned it, but it never ruled out the state in achieving that pronouncement, so all states will have to look at possibility of doing so in their respective states,” Lagos Commissioner for Home Affairs, Anofiu Elegushi, said on Tuesday on the sideline of the 2020 Ministerial Press Briefing commemorating the first year in office of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.