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Churches Relax On Covid-19 SOPs As Christians Celebrate Easter

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According to SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health, all places of worships are expected to accommodate not more than 200 adult persons at a time. They are also expected to enforce washing hands, wearing face masks, social distancing, record the contacts of the worshipers and measure their temperature.
Christians line-up outside St. Paul's Cathedral Namirembe main entrance for checking before accessing the Church for Easter Service. Photo by Olive Nakatudde

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There was laxity in observing the Covid-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in several places of worship as Christians congregated to celebrate Easter Sunday. According to SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health, all places of worships are expected to accommodate not more than 200 adult persons at a time.

They are also expected to enforce washing hands, wearing face masks, social distancing, record the contacts of the worshipers and measure their temperature. However, several Churches visited by Uganda Radio Network-URN found it hard to fulfill the set guidelines with hundreds of faithful turning up to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ. 

This is the first Easter since government eased the nationwide lock down occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic. At All Saints’ Cathedral, management found it hard to enforce the social distance requirement of at least two meters. Inside the Cathedral, social distancing was maintained but the story was different in the tents. The distance between chairs reducing as more faithful arrived.

A warden identified only as Samuel told URN that the number of worshipers was more than they had planned for. "More people have come to pray. We are now picking chairs from the stores to accommodate everyone. Some people are not even fitting in the tents because there is very little space left inside," he said.

The situation at All Saints’ Cathedral was not any different from the Church of Uganda –CoU provincial seat St. Paul’s Cathedral, Namirembe where hundreds gathered to celebrate Easter. At the main entrance of the Cathedral, Christians were required to line up for the measurement of their temperature, security checking and sanitizing before accessing the Church.    

However, as this process was going on, the other entrances to the Cathedral were unmanned leaving a gap for a big number of people to enter the Service without going through the laid down process. As the Service went on, several faithful were seen streaming in with the guidance of wardens who struggled to ensure physical distancing.  

At St. Paul’s Church, Mulago, Christians arrived for Service in the company of their Children who are yet to be allowed in places of worship. Here, children were led in prayer in a separate shelter while adults prayed at the main Church.

The faithful were required to wear masks and sanitize. Rev. Gregory Byamukama kept urging them to keep their masks on and be mindful of Covid-19. Rev. Byamukama said that Christians were excited about Easter having missed last year’s celebrations.  

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At St. Andrews Church Bukoto, Christians attended in large numbers and children as young as five years were also in attendance. Allan Wepukhulu, the Children and teen Pastor, said that there is excitement in the Church since last year, they were only able to hold virtual prayers.      

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At Christ the King Church, there was strict enforcement at the start of the Mass with only 200 believers allowed to pray from inside. But when it started raining, the believers who had congregated outside the church were allowed in. Mark Mulambuzi, an usher at the Church said there is no shelter to accommodate believers outside the church and the only option they had was to allow them inside the church together with their children.

However, the Christians were reminded to maintain their masks on as the mass led by Fr. Matthias Nteza went on. Nteza during the Easter mass asked Christians to pray for the late Archbishop of Kampala Archdiocese Dr. Cyprian Kizito Lwanga who was found dead on Saturday.

Fr. Nteza who is among the last lot of priests to be ordained by the late Archbishop also warned Christians against reckless life during this Easter festivity.

 

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