NAIROBI, Kenya, Apr 2- Churches remained closed in Kenya on Friday, with others opting for virtual services following an order by President Uhuru Kenyatta who suspended large gatherings last week in measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
On the day many worshippers could have been in church to commemorate the crucification of Jesus and his death in Calvary, there was no activities in most Kenyan churches.
Nairobi’s main Catholic Church, the Holy Family Basilica, the doors were closed with only guards and one worshipper spotted outside where he was praying even as priests conducted an online session streamed for worshippers at home.
“This is the second year I am doing this and I will not be discouraged. I prefer coming to church and even though I am praying from the outside I still feel like I am inside the House of the Lord. I know the pandemic has affected all of us, but I urge my fellow Christians to hold on and continue serving God under all circumstances,” Zachary Omweri said
Security guards thee said there was no activity scheduled.
The situation was the same at the All Saints Cathedral in Nairobi, where Provost Sammy Wainaina and other priests conducted an online service with worshippers physically there.
“We did not agree with the closure of churches but since we are law abiding citizens, we had to ask our fellow Christians to follow this service on our online platforms. We will continue ministering to them online until churches are opened again,” Wainaina said.
He urged worshippers to always attend church online in adhering to the government regulations.
“We know faith lives in us and we can experience the death of Christ and experience His resurrection regardless of where we are. The fact that we are not meeting in church physically does not make it a less Good Friday and it will not make it a less resurrection Sunday,” Wainaina said after conducting the online church service.
He urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to ensure the government provides solutions to Kenyans beyond COVID-19 measures.
Speaking to Capital FM News on Friday, Wainaina said Kenyans are suffering due to the partial lockdown that was imposed last week, with more effects on the hospitality industry which was yet to recover from earlier restrictions.
“Leadership is not just about pronouncements it is also about offering solutions and what I expected the government to do is not just to give the pronouncements that they were closing but also think about hoteliers, tourism and see how they would operate under strict guidelines,” said Wainaina.
While offering hope to all Kenyans and faithful during the Easter Period, Wainaina urged them to hold on to their faith saying even though the churches were closed, they can still worship from their homes and follow online services..
In issuing the new restrictions last week, President Kenyatta banned all gatherings, including in-person worship so as to tame the spread of the disease.
On Thursday President Kenyatta ruled out tax reliefs to cushion Kenyans and businesses during the partial lockdown affecting five counties that recorded the highest number of COVID-19 infections.
While defending the measures which include a cessation of movement in Nairobi, Nakuru Kajiado, Kiambu and Machakos, the president said it is not possible to calculate incentives for specific regions and assured that the lockdown is temporary.
“When you talk tax you talk about the whole country and not a section of the country. So we will have to look at specific measures that can apply to within a particular county like Nakuru has said there will be no licenses. So it will have to be a case by case basis because this is not a national lockdown and we cannot do different tax measures for one County as opposed to another,” Kenyatta said, while giving hope to businesses that the situation will normalize with the contribution of each and every individual.
There have been protests in Nairobi by hotel, bars and workers in the entertainment industry whose businesses remain closed following the order issued by President Kenyatta last week when he also revised curfew hours in the affected counties to start from 8pm from the earlier 10pm.
“That fully conscious that 70% of Kenya’s reported cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the Counties of Nairobi, Kajiado, Machakos, Kiambu and Nakuru, those Counties are individually and collectively declared a disease infected area,” Kenyatta declared.
Effectively, he said, “there shall be a cessation of movement into and out of the five counties effective Saturday until further notice.”
Citing statistics from the Ministry of Health, Kenyatta said “if you test 100 Kenyans today, 20 will be positive compared to January this year when only 2 would have been positive.”
“This tells us that the rate of infection has gone up 10 times between January and March 2021,” he said.
Worse still, he said, out of every 10 positive cases countrywide, 6 are from Nairobi.
While insisting that the measures are necessary in stemming the rising cases of COVID-19 in the country, the President pointed out the whole country will be fully opened when the curve flattens and the positivity rate goes down to less that 5 percent.
“It is our hope that within a 30 day period or even sooner when we are able to bring that curve to 5 percent, we will resume. Like I said, we have not locked the economy; we have locked down specific areas that have been mentioned by experts as being super spreaders,” said Kenyatta.