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Dlamini-Zuma: Nobody is being forced to go to church

The national coronavirus command council has defended government’s decision to lift the restrictions on religious gatherings during level three of the lockdown.

Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Picture: @NationalCoGTA/Twitter

JOHANNESBURG - The national coronavirus command council has defended government’s decision to lift the restrictions on religious gatherings during level three of the lockdown.

Responding to criticism that "people are being sent to the slaughterhouse," Cooperative Governance Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma insisted that government was not forcing people to go to places of worship but had just availed the option.

Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu and Minister Dlamini-Zuma agreed that strict and stringent measures had to be followed at churches, mosques and other religious places when congregants gather.

The reopening of places of worship has ignited fears that the coronavirus will spread, with many referring to the Free State church where dozens of people contracted the virus in the early days of the pandemic in the country.

Minister Dlamini-Zuma: "Nobody is forced to go to church, the government has just opened an option."

Mthembu said that government’s decision was also informed by lessons of the past, saying that measures were in place to mitigate against infections.

"We believe that all these measures mitigate against the contracting of the coronavirus in our churches, synagogues and mosques."

People attending the gatherings will have to stand or sit 1.5 metres apart, which could lead to a lower turnout than the restricted 50 due to space.