, 25 July, 2020 / 9:00 PM
A Catholic Archbishop in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has underscored the need to continue adhering to COVID-19 measures even after the restrictions, which the government put in place in March, are lifted.
“Everyone expects the lifting of the state of emergency decreed by the President of the Republic. Even if this measure is lifted, that does not mean that the coronavirus pandemic is over,” the President of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO), Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa has been quoted as saying.
Addressing journalists Tuesday, July 21 after select members of the Association of Catholic Doctors (AMC) had sensitized pastoral agents on the observance of preventive measures, Archbishop Utembi added, “As long as the disease continues, we will also continue to observe preventive measures.”
To curb the spread of COVID-19 in the country, President Félix Tshisekedi declared a state of emergency on March 24 alongside other restrictions such as the closure of borders, the ban of public gatherings as well as the suspension of commercial flights.
"Coronavirus does not need a passport, visa or voter's card to circulate in our house," the President said in his address to the nation and added, "We find ourselves at war with an invisible adversary.”
DRC, the second largest country in Africa, has recorded at least 8,443 COVID-19 cases, 4,335 recoveries and 194 related deaths.
According to DRC’s Government Spokesman, Jolino Makelele, the expected lifting of the restrictions is “conditioned by the implementation of certain prerequisites because the current issue is to learn to live with the COVID-19 pandemic, while fighting against its spread, and thus protect populations.”
“Barrier gestures must now become a new way of life,” Archbishop Utembi, who is the Local Ordinary of Kisangani Archdiocese, has emphasized.
On June 29, authorities in the country lifted quarantine measures in Kinshasa’s Gombe district, which had been put on lockdown to control the spread of COVID-19, thereby allowing government offices, restaurants and shops to reopen.
To minimize the risk of vulnerable groups contracting the disease, Catholic Bishops in the country have through their development and humanitarian arm Caritas Congo ASBL launched a campaign to raise awareness about COVID-19
“Our people need to get the right information about this virus and we must do everything possible to protect vulnerable groups especially the elderly from contracting this disease,” the Archbishop of Kinshasa, Fridolin Cardinal Ambongo said during the official launch of the campaign.
For a period of three months, Caritas Congo ASBL will seek to conduct the widest possible sensitization campaign about COVID-19 that will see its agents equipped with megaphones, banners, and posters traverse the neighborhoods of Kinshasa.
The agents will target the poorest neighborhoods where frequent power cuts do not allow the population to access messages that are broadcast on radios and televisions.
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.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa