, 13 March, 2020 / 5:00 AM
With deaths related to the novel coronavirus hitting over 3,000 and 64 countries, including 10 African nations confirming cases of the virus, different Church and secular events scheduled to take place in the continent have been cancelled or postponed. Below are some of the events that have been cancelled.
AMECEA Secretary Generals Meeting
The Association of Member Episcopal Conferences in Eastern Africa (AMECEA) postponed a meeting of Secretaries General of its members due to the COVID-19 virus.
Information shared with ACI Africa indicates the March 24 to 27 meeting that was to take place in Zambia’s capital, Lusaka, has been postponed until further notice.
AMECEA has also been forced to postpone other international meetings for its different departments.
Mashariki African Film Festival
The 6th Edition of the Mashariki African Film Festival where some AMECEA officials were to participate as jury for SIGNIS, an ecclesial movement for professionals in the communication media, has also been postponed.
"We have decided to postpone the 6th Edition of the Mashariki African Film Festival until further notice," they posted on their Facebook page.
"This is to ensure the health and safety of all participants and guests in light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak across the globe," the post reads further.
Centre for Child Protection: Theological Laboratory
Further, the Office of the Centre for Child Protection announced cancellation of the Theological Laboratory slated for 11 to 14 March in the Italy based Pontifical Gregorian University after schools in the country were closed down to combat the virus.
“Even if we wished to move forward entirely online, the resources necessary for an online event are no longer available to us. For this reason, we have no choice but to cancel the laboratory,” reads the March 5 statement sent to a participant from the AMECEA Pastoral department.
Tentatively, the event has been scheduled for January 2021.
Women’s Workshop in Uganda
In Uganda, a workshop for Catholic actors in East-Africa to support advocacy for women’s land rights has been suspended until the virus is contained.
“Unfortunately, the outbreak of COVID-19 and the unforeseen situation around the virus Gender workshop for Catholic actors in East-Africa to support advocacy for women’s land rights is postponed,” reads an email sent to participants of the workshop and seen by ACI Africa.
According to the message, the event organizers “have been requested by the Ugandan Ministry of Health to postpone our workshop” as a precautionary measure.
The organizers informed the participants that a new date for the workshop will be announced once the situation is under control.
The Jesuit Conference of Africa and Madagascar (JCAM) also announced the indefinite postponing of the Child Safeguarding Conference that was slated for April 16-20.
"Given the current uncertainty regarding the global public health situation, we believe that postponing the event is the safe and sensible thing to do," reads a statement by JCAM President, Fr. Agbonkhianmeghe Orobator.
"We take seriously the safety and health of all participants," the JCAM statement reads and assures, "Once the threat of COVID-19 has lifted we will reassess the prospect of rescheduling the colloquium for a later date."
UN Conference in Ethiopia
High level events such as the ministerial conference of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) that was to take place in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa from March 18 to 24 have also been deferred.
“Following global health concerns pertaining to the COVID-19 coronavirus and the need for added vigilance, upon consultation with partners, the ECA will postpone all public meetings until further notice,” the March ECA statement read.
In the East African country of Kenya, her athletes have been barred from traveling to international events for fear of the pandemic.
Meanwhile, Kenya is the latest African country to confirm the case of COVID-19 which was reported in a Kenyan woman who travelled to the East African country from the US via London. Announcing the case, the Kenyan government on Friday, March 13 suspended all public gatherings including Church crusades and inter-school events.
The Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has noted that the virus is a risk to the global economy.
“The coronavirus outbreak carries serious risks for the global economy,” tweeted UNCTAD Secretary General, Dr. Mikhisa Kituyi, a Kenyan national.
In Ghana, the government has set aside $100 million to improve the country’s readiness and response strategy to the virus.
In the televised address, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo of the West African country said “With the declaration by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the Coronavirus disease as “a pandemic”, it is important that Ghana steps up her preparedness to ensure that, beyond the initial measures that have been put in place, a ‘whole of Ghana’ approach is adopted in preparation for a possible hit within the country’s borders.”
President Akufo-Addo, on March 10, also ordered a suspension of all international travels by public officials in and out of the country, saying, “Except for critical assignments, which will have to be authorized by the Chief of Staff at the Office of the President, all public officials are to remain within the jurisdiction, until further notice. Video conferencing facilities and other technological tools are to be utilized, whenever possible, for international engagements.”
The Church in Ghana has also made rigorous changes in in the daily liturgical actives in a bid to prevent the spread of the virus.
Bishop Emmanuel Fianu of the Ho Diocese in Ghana has, for instance, issued a directive in a letter to priests and lay faithful in the Diocese asking priests to entirely omit the invitation to the kiss of peace.
The letter by the Divine Word Bishop further noted, “Holy Communion is to be given only under the species of the body and blood of Christ (Bread Only) and concelebrants at the Eucharistic celebrations are advised to consume the precious blood of Christ by instinction,”
The letter also added that “all holy water fonts or receptacles in use in the Church are to be emptied and kept dried.”
“I entreat all parishes and communities to find the most convenient means to educate our faithful on this deadly infection in order to save lives,” the Ho Bishop said in his letter.
The Egyptian catholic communities have also, on Friday, March 13, held prayers for the victims of the COVID-19 epidemic, asking the Lord the recovery of the infected people, the merciful reception for who dies and the consolation for who loses their loved ones because of the disease.
In a statement released in the name of the Council of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Egypt, co-chaired by the Coptic Catholic Patriarch Ibrahim Isaac Sidrak and by the Melkite Patriarch Youssef Absi, it is acknowledged that the virus represents a global threat for the entire humanity, and the protection of the Lord is invoked over the Egyptian nation and “over every country in the world”.
According to official statistics released by the Egyptian Ministry of Health, there are about sixty cases of COVID-19 infection so far.
Damian Avevor, ACI Africa correspondent in Ghana, contributed to this story.