South Africa: Reopening Places of Worship Is a Serious Public Health Concern

analysis

Allowing religious gatherings of up to 50 people at Alert Level 3 risks setting back South Africa's Covid-19 response.

The decision taken by the National Coronavirus Command Council and announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 26 May and contained in the regulations published by the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, on 28 May that places of worship will be allowed to resume religious services of up to 50 people when the country moves to Alert Level 3 on 1 June 2020 is a serious public health concern.

Religious worship is an important part of the spiritual and emotional well-being of millions of South Africans and the right to freedom of religion is contained in our Constitution. The decision, however, to allow religious gatherings of up to 50 individuals compromises one of the few effective public health tools currently at our disposal against Covid-19, namely physical (social) distancing and is a setback for the country's Covid-19 public health response.

There is growing evidence globally of SARS-CoV-2 transmission during religious gatherings where a few infected individuals transmit the virus to large numbers of attendees, some of whom die. Six examples are listed below:

On 18 February...

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