“Closure of all borders to curb spread of COVID-19” Among Suggestions of Bishops in Benin

Logo, Episcopal Conference of Benin

The Catholic Christian Observatory for Governance (OCCG), an organ of the Episcopal Conference of Benin (CEB), has called on the government of President Patrice Talon to immediately close “all borders” and to put in place appropriate measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the West African country.

“The immediate closure of all borders remains one of the decisions expected to curb the spread of the virus by people entering our country,” the President of OCCG, Fr. Nathanaël Yaovi Soédé told journalists at a Press Conference at the headquarters of CEB Wednesday, April 15.

In the collective statement, Church leaders in Benin “suggest that low-income compatriots, health personnel, hospital patients, and citizens in prison settings should be able to benefit from the free distribution of protective measures such as masks, hydro-alcoholic gels, soaps, etc.”

Addressing the attitude of indifference on the part of the population regarding COVID-19, Fr. Soédé called for civic education saying, “the Government is invited to intensify sensitization with the support of local elected officials and other opinion leaders.”

According to Fr. Soédé, Bishops in Benin “have expressed concern about the condition of the health personnel facing COVID-19" and appealed to the Government "to take appropriate measures to ensure they are adequately equipped, protected and secured.”

He went on to express the Church leaders’ appreciation to various stakeholders in the fight against the pandemic saying, “The Catholic Church salutes and pays homage to the people and institutions that are at the forefront of the fight against the coronavirus, including members of Government, the medical profession, researchers, psychologists, spiritual guides, donors, all shadow workers, families and friends of the victims.”

He added, “We encourage projects and initiatives aimed at the integral well-being of the human person and the search for a solution that takes into account the cultural and economic realities of the people.”

During the Press Conference, the President of OCCG also announced that the Bishops in the country have encouraged the government to make use of the media in sensitizing the population about the pandemic. 

“Television and radio programs should be produced; the social media should be used with a view to raising awareness among families of the risks involved with the spread of COVID-19,” the Beninese Cleric said, referencing the recommendation by Bishops in his country.

Fr. Soédé also told journalists that the Bishops have recommended “the establishment of a National Emergency Fund and an international support team to facilitate the implementation of procedures and compliance with the various protocols for recognizing the reliability of the products offered by some compatriots for the treatment of COVID-19, as well as the establishment of a Foundation for the promotion of pharmaceutical and medical research in Benin.”

Benin has recorded at least 35 cases of COVID-19 with one death and 18 recoveries, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported.

According to Benin’s Health Minister, Benjamin Hounkpatin, the government has opted for the strategy of having COVID-19 patients treated in dedicated centres and not in the usual hospitals and clinics.

Despite limiting public gatherings and advising people to stay at home, the West African nation has not closed its airport like many countries. The Beninese Head of State and his government preferred to manage the crisis according to the threat it poses to the population, a local media reported.

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ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.

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