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MBABANE - The public has reacted with shock and outrage over government’s decision to allow churches to have at least 70 members during services, as long as they practise social distancing.

A majority of people are of the view that if this is the case, then all other gatherings of 70 people should be allowed, be it in places of socialising, weddings and funerals. The shocking announcement was made by the Minister of Home Affairs, Princess Lindiwe, who is also the first lady at popular church, the Jesus Calls Worship Centre, popularly known as JC, in Matsapha. This is despite the fact that the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Regulations, 2020 state that in order to contain the spread of COVID-19, a gathering of more than 20 people is prohibited. Initially, the gatherings were limited to 50 people, but government revised these to a lower figure as positive cases continued to escalate.


However, it remains a mystery why the minister decided to announce these changes, particularly giving a special pass to churches. WhatsApp groups and Facebook updates have been abuzz with people expressing outrage over the move by the ministry. Interestingly, the minister’s announcement comes a few days after the Prime Minister, Ambrose Mandvulo Dlamini, had stated that during the eased partial lockdown, the Home Affairs minister would announce revised regulations for churches. “Let me just say that the decision to increase the number of people attending churches clearly shows that there is absolutely no scientific research that is informing government’s actions, but pure self interest,” commented a concerned citizen in one group. The individual stated that no one was asking the hard questions relating to how government was preparing for the worst case scenario.  “This is too much of a test for our health system. Some workers are showing resistance in handling COVID-19 cases, with high volumes of such cases, I foresee us losing the battle,” opined another.


Others were of the view that maybe it was time then that other businesses be opened, including hairdressing salons. “Sentani kantsi laEswatini (what are we doing in Eswatini). Are we trying to fight this disease or not,” commented another on Facebook. Some went as far as stating that they wished those who would be going to the services in numbers could contract the virus so that the minister and company could realise how detrimental their decision was.  “I am not calling curses from God (Sic), but this whole church thing is just wrong and I wonder what would make them unique or keep them from not getting infected in church,” he said. Those missing their sessions at the gym also said government should open them and they would also practise  social distancing. “Who loses a job in church because we thought we were easing up for the sake of the economy and not these services, where people just want to dress up and look pretty in matching masks,” said another on the church issue.


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