Coronavirus: Pastors’ lie to evade arrest

Three pastors of some new generation churches on Sunday in Abuja denied their ministries and followers after operatives of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT Ministerial Enforcement Team moved in to arrest them for violating the ban on congregational worship in the territory. The Pastors who had partitioned a mountain at the Federal Housing area of Lugbe District traded words among themselves and even denied stewardship of the large crowd met worshipping at the hilltop.

The pastors were Ibitoye Kayode of the Liberty Faith Gospel Church, Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry and Vitalis Udeazi of Dominion Chapel. Trouble started when the Enforcement team on COVID-19 Restrictions stormed the area following a tip-off but found it difficult to identify worshippers and their religious leaders. After a brief interrogation, the three pastors were identified from the crowd, even though one of them, Vitalis Udeazi of Dominion Chapel struggled to conceal his identity. He said none of his members were present at the time the task force arrived at the mountain top, but this did not go down well with other pastors who protested vehemently that he was one of them.

Luck, however, ran out on him when some members pointed at him as their pastor. He still insisted that they were his prayer members. For Joshua Olaniru of Liberty Gate Ministry, who argued that he was not among those holding worship session, a resident of the community availed the taskforce of a video clip which showed the cleric holding a worship session, a development which had led to a fight about an hour before the taskforce personnel arrived. Speaking to the pastors, Chairman of the taskforce, Ikharo Attah queried; “why are you all denying these large groups of worshippers? No one among you agreed that anyone came to worship with them even when they turned out in large numbers. One of you even went ahead to deny being a pastor”. Also another cleric, Pastor Effiong Bassey of the Holiness Revival Ministry Church, Karamajiji was apprehended for holding a church service to mark the 60th birthday of a retired military colonel, P.E Ebong who left the military in 2015. Addressing the pastor, Attah said, “you cannot hold a worship service in defiance of the directives of the Commander in Chief just to mark the 60th birthday of a retired colonel. Even for a serving colonel, it is very wrong. You have to come with us and explain it to the magistrate at the mobile court”. The Clerics were consequently arraigned before a Mobile Court presided over by Magistrate Akonni who found them guilty and fined them N5,000 each in addition to three hours of community service. The team also shut down the informal sector at the Dutse Alhaji market which was fully in operation on Sunday in contravention of the Administration’s guidelines. Four traders were arrested and arraigned at the Mobile court.

Madagascar reports first coronavirus death

Madagascar on Sunday reported the first death of a patient suffering from novel coronavirus nearly two months after it was first detected in the country, official statistics showed. The Indian ocean island which has reported 304 cases has hit the headlines over a home-grown herbal concoction that President Andry Rajoelina claims can cure people infected with the virus.

Several African countries have ordered or expressed interest in the purported remedy, which is known as Covid-Organics. The tonic drink is derived from artemisia — a plant with proven efficacy in malaria treatment — and other indigenous herbs. But the World Health Organization has warned against “adopting a product that has not been taken through tests to see its efficacy”.

Boris Johnson: Coronavirus vaccine ‘might not come to fruition’

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says there might never be a vaccine for COVID-19 despite the huge global effort to develop one.

Johnson, who was hospitalised last month with a serious bout of coronavirus, speculated on Sunday that a vaccine may not be developed at all, despite the huge global effort to produce one.

Johnson wrote in the Mail on Sunday newspaper “there remains a very long way to go, and I must be frank that a vaccine might not come to fruition”.

“We need to find new ways to control the virus,” including testing people who have symptoms and tracing contacts of those infected people, he said.

The British government is giving 93 million pounds ($110m) in funding to speed up the opening of the new Vaccine Manufacturing and Innovation Centre. Johnson said the UK is also supporting research into drug treatments to help people recover quickly from the virus.

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said the UK was home to two of the world’s “frontrunners to develop a vaccine”.

The projects, at Oxford University and Imperial College London, were making “good progress” at “unprecedented speed”, he said. But he warned “there are no certainties”.

“We may never find a successful coronavirus vaccine,” he said.

The British government relaxed some restrictions on outdoor activities in England last week and plans to continue easing rules over the next few months.

“I know this will not be easy – the first baby steps never are,” Johnson said.

LASG gives conditions to reopen churches, mosques, others

The Governor of Lagos State, Mr Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has said government officials will be visiting churches, mosques, companies to evaluate their preparedness to fully reopen.

According to him, social distancing and hygiene will be prerequisites to reopening religious places of worship in the state.

Sanwo-Olu stated these at a briefing on Sunday after the State Security Council meeting at the Lagos House, Marina.

He noted that with the size of the state’s economy and numbers of businesses operating in its domain, the government could not afford to keep people and businesses on lockdown permanently.

The governor said in the coming days, officials from the Lagos State Safety Commission and Lagos State Environmental Protection Agency would be assessing the readiness of the players in identified sectors for supervised operations.

 He said, “We are at a level where we are reviewing the other arms of the economy. In the coming days, we will be starting what we call Register-to-Open, which means all players in the restaurant business, event centres, entertainment, malls and cinemas, will go through a form of re-registration and space management.

“There is a regulation that will be introduced to supervise this move. We will be coming to their facilities to assess their level of readiness for a future opening. I don’t know when that opening will happen in the weeks ahead, but we want these businesses to begin to tune themselves to the reality of COVID-19 with respect to how their work spaces need to look like.

“For us, it is not to say they should re-open fully tomorrow or any time; there has been a process guiding the re-opening.

“We will be mandating LASEPA and safety commission to begin the enumeration process and the agencies will be communicating with all relevant businesses and houses in the days ahead. I must, however, caution that this should not be misinterpreted as a licence for full opening; it is certainly not. The state’s economy is not ready for that now.”

Sanwo-Olu said the government agencies would also be visiting places of worship ahead of full reopening.

He stressed that social distancing and hygiene would be fully considered in determining whether mosques and churches could re-open.

“We are reviewing and considering how the phased unlocking will happen. If we see huge level of compliance, then it can happen in the next two to three weeks. If not, it could take a month or two months. It is until we are sure all these players are ready to conform to our guidelines,” the governor said.

Sanwo-Olu urged businesses, religious houses and residents to maintain the status quo, while the state worked out modalities for full re-opening.

He also disclosed that all the 10 members of staff of the Government House who tested positive for the coronavirus had fully recovered and returned to their beats.