NATIONAL NEWS - The South African Council of Churches (SACC) and taxi industry body South African National Taxi Council (Santaco) will this week decide on how they will deal with Covid-19.
The council, whose congregations made up about 20 million people, and Santaco which affects 14 million commuters daily, are set to deliberate on issues such as hygiene, changes in operations and educating people on how to prevent spreading the virus.
According to Santaco president Phillip Taaibosch, a meeting between the two organisations would be convened today in order to discuss how they will work together with their constituents on containing the virus.
“Let me indicate that myself and Bishop [Malusi] Mpumlwana will meet tomorrow and from there, Santaco intends to make a pronouncement regarding this virus on Thursday, during the launch of Operation Hlokomela.”
Churches under the SACC will meet during the week to discuss whether large gatherings, including weekly services, should be suspended while government scrambles to contain the pandemic in the country.
SACC president Mpumlwana said the organisation was concerned about the numerous ways in which the virus could spread through church activities.
“Very clearly, the virus is spreading fast and there is not much we can do in terms of our behaviours, it just happens. And what is even worse is that now we also know that someone can cough or sneeze in a room and someone can arrive an hour later and get it,” said Mpumlwana.
“This is a very serious problem now, especially with our churches where we use a single chalice to administer holy communion and the virus survives for hours. Plastic bottles and bags are also carriers.”
Mpumlwana said he was concerned that the virus was especially a threat to vulnerable groups, such as the seven million people living with HIV, those who have tuberculosis (TB), cancer patients and the elderly.
“Also, of great concern are those in the rural areas who may not have access to water and sanitation, especially the schools in those areas. We may find ourselves in a situation where we may have to say the Easter holidays need to be extended so that schools remain closed for longer.”
The group expects to meet later in the week with the health department, experts and other organisations with the intention of sharing concerns and spreading awareness on how people can protect themselves and prevent the spread of the virus. Cases in SA reached 51 yesterday.
Anglican Church leader Archbishop Thabo Makgoba has called for hand sanitisers to be made available at every church in the country.
He also urged people and clergymen to suspend physical contact and treat the spread of the virus with the seriousness it deserved.
“I pray that we will really give [the pandemic] the urgency that it deserves in Africa and in South Africa and not just bask in the fact that it’s a European problem,” he said.
“Please help to reduce it by constantly washing your hands, sanitising and avoiding … public events where the virus may be spread.”
Makgoba asked for church congregants to just wave at each other rather than the traditional embraces and handshakes during the “peace” part of the service, where congregants greeted each other.
In the Vatican, Pope Francis announced a scaling down of planned public events for Holy Week and Easter Services as Italy grappled with more than 21 000 cases.
Governments and religious organisations around the world have announced shutdowns of churches, temples and events.