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L -R: Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiangi (Interior) and Mutahi Kagwe (Health) are expected to come up with protocols that will be adopted to guide gatherings in churches, temples and mosques, to ensure worship services resume without exposing congregations to the COVID-19 pandemic/FILE

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CSs Matiangi, Kagwe to engage clerics on resumption of congregational worship

NAIROBI, Kenya June 2 – President Uhuru Kenyatta on Monday directed the ministries of Interior and Health to hasten talks with religious leaders on how best places of worship can be re-opened amid the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Cabinet Secretaries Fred Matiangi (Interior) and Mutahi Kagwe (Health) are expected to come up with protocols that will be adopted to guide gatherings in churches, temples and mosques, to ensure worship services resume without exposing congregations to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need not to be persuaded as a people why we must do everything in our power to conquer this invisible enemy, the coronavirus disease,” the Head of State said when he hosted Madaraka Day celebrations at State House, Nairobi.

He added that even as the government was putting the necessary measures to progressively ease movement restrictions, it was imperative for Kenyans to maintain adherence to measures issued by the Ministry of Health to keep the virus at bay.

“The containment measures and protocols issued by the government, while absolutely necessary, have constrained our freedoms and our way of life,” President Kenyatta added.

Following the first reported case of coronavirus in the country in March, places of worship including churches and mosques were shut to prevent the spread of the virus with some religious institutions resorting to transmitting their services via online platforms and televisions stations.

The Head of State also instructed Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha to fast track talks with the relevant stakeholders on modalities of having schools re-open.

“I am hereby directing that the Ministry of Education fast tracks and finalizes ongoing consultations with all stake holders that will provide us with an appropriate calendar for the gradual resumption of education in the country,” he said.

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While acknowledging concerns expressed by parents and guardians of candidates sitting for national examinations, Kenyatta however emphasized on the need to put protocols in place to ensure safety of learners and teachers once schools reopen.

“I appreciate the anxiety weighing heavily in the minds of children and parents, especially those preparing for national exams but the guidelines should also include protocol to guarantee safety of children , parents and grandchildren,” the Head of State said.

President Kenyatta’s remarks come at a time the education ministry is reviewing a preliminary report on the reopening of schools ahead of further guidelines on current COVID-19 containment regulations expected to lapse on June 6.

Last week Friday, Education Cabinet Secretary Prof George Magoha received a report from the Education Response Committee on COVID-19, a nine-member team established to advise the government on the modalities of re-opening schools.

CS Magaoha however indicated that the ministry would not take actions that would jeopardize the health of students. He sated that the ministry would not mind to losing the reminder of the academic year if the coronavirus situation would not have been contained.

As of June 1, Kenya had reported 2,021 COVID-19 cases, the death toll having risen to 69 after five more patients succumbed to the virus.

The government is however considering relaxing current restrictions set to lapse on June 6, President Kenyatta having given the clearest indication of his administration’s resolve to do so when he delivered his seventh address on the COVID-19 situation.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Saturday issued interim rules on how governments across the world can ease their restrictions amid the pandemic, key among them the limiting of guests at gatherings and the continued observation of social distancing measure in public places.

The government has already set aside a Sh53.7 billion economic stimulus package to revive the economy amid a projected decline in GDP growth.

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