Gov. Douye Diri of Bayelsa has directed the State Task Force on COVID-19 to unseal worship centres that ran foul of measures imposed by the state government to prevent the spread of coronavirus in the state.
The governor gave the directive in Yenagoa on Thursday during a meeting with religious leaders in the state.
Diri, however, urged the violators to retrace their steps as his administration derived no pleasure in shutting down churches.
He urged the religious leaders to partner actively and spiritually with his administration to avert a rise of COVID-19 pandemic through conscious awareness on the threat of the virus to their congregation.
He expressed concern over the daily update from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) with the state recording 54 new cases on Tuesday and 25 on Wednesday.
According to him, all hands have to be on deck to curtail the spread of the virus.
“I hereby give fresh guidelines for churches to adhere to.
“All mid-week activities in all churches remain suspended till the end of COVID-19, including gatherings at home cells,” Diri said.
According to him, for Sunday worship, hand sanitisers or running water and soap must be provided at the entrance of all churches.
“Churches having multiple services should observe 30 minutes between services to avoid clustering of people. The essence is that we should not have a gathering of people that will easily transmit the pandemic.
“The seating arrangement should be two metres or six feet apart and it is compulsory for every worshipper to wear a facemask. All Sunday services should be held between the hours of 7 a.m and 1p.m.
“May I also advise that the mega churches should have their own monitoring team to lighten the job of the state COVID-19 task force.
“All guidelines must be strictly complied with for the health benefit of the people,” the governor said.
Responding on behalf of the clerics, the Bishop of Niger Delta West Diocese, Bishop Emmanuel Oko-Jaja, expressed satisfaction with the leadership of the governor in addressing and curtailing the spread of the virus since its outbreak in the state.
Speaking earlier, the immediate past Special Adviser on Religious Matters, Pastor Samuel John-Peters, reaffirmed the role of the various church leaders to assist greatly in the fight against the pandemic until it is terminated.