Zwedru – While many people in Liberia are reportedly falling short of adhering to COVID-19 preventive measures, churches and mosques in Grand Gedeh County are “doing their best” in keeping health protocol in place during worship hours.
Rev. Jelleh Winner Zulu, president of the county’s Christian Council, says all worship centers within and around Zwedru are observing social distancing, avoiding handshaking, wearing of nose mask and worshipers have to properly wash their hands before entering the church.
He said over 42 churches in Zwedru have been supplied hand washing devices, 17 fellowship centers have received hand washing buckets from the county health team. He said German NGO, Welthungerhilfe, has also donated several prevention control materials to churches.
“We are proactive in supporting the county health team and partners for the prevention of this global pandemic,” Rev. Zulu said. “Before the reopening of churches, we had meeting with congregation heads and told them that during every worship time there should be minutes left for health talk mainly on Covid-19 update by a health personal and if the person is not available within that church or fellowship, someone with an idea in health must provide the education and it is taking effect”.
The council is also a member of the Incident Management Team, which means its representative often attends the weekly meeting on Tuesday to reinforce the council’s understanding of the current situation to discuss awareness strategies for respective congregations.
In order to practice physical distancing during service, churches that have more than 300 members hold two services while those above 300 hold three different worship services, he said.
Madam Theresa Gaye Weah, a member of the Bethel World Outreach Ministries in Zwedru, says the church now conducts two worhsip services every Sunday since the outbreak of COVID-19 in Liberia.
She said before the pandemic, the traditional way of greeting a first-time visitor with “a big hug and handshake” have been stopped. Madam Gaye says worshipers are now made to strictly follow the health protocol before entering the church.
“Before entering the church, there is a hand washing station there – it is where the church protocol officers stands and direct everyone to wash his or her hands and everyone follows this,” she said.
Like the Christian community, the Muslims are also contributing their fair share of adherence to public health protocols. Imam Amarah Konnah, who is the head of the Muslim Council of the county, says the number of worshipers is being regulated in strict adherence to the physical distancing rule.
He said at most 40 persons are allowed to worship at a time and there is always a health talk after prayer starts.
“We have some of our Muslim brothers and sisters that are working with the county health team that after our prayer time they can most often explained to us for like 5 minutes and tell us how fast this virus spreads and the preventive measures to help keep us save which we’ve been doing mostly when we meet for prayer and also at our various homes,” explains Imam Konneh. “Since the outbreak, some of our people pray at home and only come to the mosques on Friday.”
Alpha Bah, a motorcyclist and Muslim who worships at the Fula Mosque in Zwedru, recalls how he was once denied entry to the mosque because he was not wearing mask.
“On this day I went without nose mask I was denied of entering the mosque which really shocked me that day, then it was the time I knew that the issue of the virus business was real,” said the 34-yeat-old.
“My nose mask always stays on me expect if I am in bed. While going to the mosque for prayers and in traffic [I keep it on] because I think it is good by preventing me from easily contracting the virus.”
When contacted, Mr. Zebedee Agri Bao, the County Health Team’s Risk Communication Lead, hailed the religious community for implementing measures intended to curb the spread of the virus.
Bao said the religious community’s stance against the spread of COVID-19 has added value to the work of the county health team and it is helping reduce the pressure on the health system.
However, there are calls for authorities in the county to ensure that the health measures are follow. These calls echo the views of many people who often blame the flouting of the health protocols on the failure of the administration to enforce the measures at public places.