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Kenya’s Elderly, Sick to Continue Worshipping in Private amid Surge in COVID-19 Cases

Members of the Interfaith Council in Kenya at a previous event

The elderly and the sick in Kenya have been urged to continue worshiping in private as the country reports a steady increase in the number of new confirmed cases of COVID-19.

In their Tuesday, March 23 statement, members of Interfaith Council in Kenya also express concern about the increasing cases of fatalities as a result of coronavirus-related complications.

“We continue encouraging the elderly over 65 years to worship from home due to the high danger of death the infection would place them in,” members of the Catholic Archbishop-led Council in Kenya say.

The members of the body constituted in June 2020 with the mandate to guide the resumption of public worship in Kenya add that “it is out of concern” that they are discouraging the elderly and sickly members of the society from public worship in person. 

To satisfy the worship needs of the sickly and elderly congregants, the Council members encourage religious leaders in the East African country to “look for safe ways to attend to them in their homes.”

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Kenya has recorded 122,040 cases of the virus including 2,023 deaths and 90,376 recoveries. Since January, the country has been experiencing a rapid increase in new positive cases of COVID-19.

On March 12, authorities in the country confirmed the upsurge in the new positive cases and deaths as part of the third wave of the pandemic in the East African country

In their March 23 statement signed by Archbishop Anthony Muheria of Kenya’s Catholic Archdiocese of Nyeri, the members of the Interfaith Council urge Kenyans to exercise caution amid the third wave of the coronavirus. 

“At this time when the threat is at its highest, we must be even more demanding and strict in all the preventive measures, already issued by the Interfaith Council and Ministry of Health in our places of Worship,” they say. 

“Many of the infections are taking place in the Funeral setting,” the representatives of religious leaders in Kenya say, calling on the people of God in the country to “avoid attendance to Funerals, except for close relatives.”

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They direct that the number of attendants at funerals be a maximum of 100 persons and call on religious leaders presiding over burial ceremonies to insist on the adherence of the Council’s guidelines and the measures issued by the Ministry of Health during the preparation days and during the Funeral itself.

The members of the Council also urge religious leaders to enforce social distancing in places of worship, cleaning of hands before celebrations, sanitizing, and wearing of facemasks by all participating in public worship.  

Looking toward the Holy Week and Easter celebrations, the members of the Interfaith Council say, “In a special way, during the forthcoming weeks when several faith traditions have solemn periods, all gatherings must adhere to these guidelines and no processions or night vigil services are allowed.” 

They also encourage taking COVID-19 vaccination saying, “We urge religious leaders to encourage our people, especially the elderly, to take this second shield of protection by going to be vaccinated.”

The vaccine, which arrived in the country on March 3 “will assist greatly in containing the spread of the Infections,” they say.

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In Kenya, COVID-19 vaccination nation kicked off on March 5. Health workers, the elderly, teachers and security personnel were prioritized.

Against the backdrop of mixed reaction to the reception of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in the country, including caution from the leadership of the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association (KCDA), members of the Interfaith Council urge officials of the Ministry of Health to “continue giving as much information on the vaccine as possible, as well as address any doubts raised by the public.”

They also call on the National and County Governments to collaborate with religious leaders and other relevant institutions in the country to sensitize the people of God at the grassroots about the vaccines.

“We cannot also slacken in our intensity of prayers, asking God to intervene and bring to an end this pandemic,” the representatives of religious leaders in Kenya say, and urge Kenyans not to forget “that our main weapon still continues to be prayer.”